Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Big Bang: Colorado Troupe's Woods Was Broadway-Worthy

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Big Bang: Colorado Troupe's Woods Was Broadway-Worthy

Article excerpt

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's first production under its new name is also the biggest in its estimable history. The re-monikered Fine Arts Center Theatre Company (FAC) takes audiences deep Into the Woods - perhaps a half-hour deeper than anyone might want to go. Still, with its latest big-bang, big-bucks to-do [presented May 11-June 3, 2007], the FAC again proves that nobody, but nobody, does musicals like they do.

The FAC follows last year's Denver Post Ovation-winning best musical Pirates of Penzance with a stunning staging by a cast dotted with Broadway veterans and opera-caliber singers, with sets and costumes also worthy of the Great White Way.

The troupe is no secret to Colorado Springs. Every show I've attended there in six years has been sold out in its now gorgeously refurbished, 400-seat SaGâJi Theatre. To anyone in Denver who wonders whether it's worth the drive - don't wonder.

The company, under new boss Alan Osburn, well-known in Denver as an actor, directs Stephen Sondheim's musical which magically blends three classic fairy tales with James Lapine's invented story of a childless baker (he's Rapunzel's brother!) and his wife.

Characters from all four cleverly intermingled tales now have reasons to journey into the woods - Jack to sell the family cow, Little Red Ridinghood to visit her big-fanged Grandma, Cinderella to go to the Festival and the baker to reverse a witch's progenitive curse.

Real-life marrieds Kelly Walters and Susan Dawn Carson are the baker and his wife. Walters played Candide on Broadway; his wife was Fantine in Les Misèrables. Walters, who hasn't yet had the best vehicle to show off his chops for Denver audiences, is marvelous here. So, too, is Mercedes Perez, who plays the haggard-turned-seductive witch.

These are no out-of-town ringers. The 17 members of this high-caliber ensemble all call Colorado home. (Osburn did have an inside track on landing Perez, who starred for 20 months in the New Denver Civic's Menopause the Musical - she's his wife.) They are complemented by a supremely talented support cast, including an adorable Sally Lewis Hybl as Cinderella, young Brandon Sward's giant-killing Jack, Carmen Mock's snarky Little Red and Maija-Liisa Nielsen's (sigh) lovely Rapunzel. There's even a narrator (Mark Hennessy) cleverly made up to look like a young Sondheim.

The story comes together flawlessly, from great characters to fine voices to pure theatrical spectacle, thanks to another spellbinding set by Christopher Sheley (a storybook come to 3-D life), glorious light and sound enhancement and an impressive 11-person orchestra. …

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