We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Curtain Call at Manhattan School of Music
Some impressive young performers led us into the woods and out again in a thoroughly delightful performance of Stephen Sondheim's 1986 musical Into the Woods.  The performance is part of Manhattan School of Music's Summer Voice Festival.  Is it possible that this cast, in only six weeks, put together an evening that rivals the original performance on Broadway and the one produced by Shakespeare in the Park last summer?  It is!  In place of famous stars we had fresh young voices; in place of lavish scenery and costumes we had giant helpings of imagination.  Much credit goes to Director Bill Fabris and to Musical Director Dan Gettinger who accompanied on the piano, augmented by a fine string quartet and a percussionist, in an arrangement that permitted the voices to be heard without deafening amplification; anyone who visits here regularly knows how we feel about that curse.

The work itself is a mashup of the fairy tales we all heard as children, with all their terrifying elements intact-- and some added by James Lapine in his highly original book.  These characters have all-too-human qualities and therefore we can identify and accept their philosophical life lessons.  Everyone wishes for something; but those that get their wishes in Act I are dissatisfied in Act II.  Everyone must deal with risk, with disappointment, with loss, with failure to accept responsibility, with egregious misjudgments and the lessons learned thereby.

All of the performances were admirable but a few were outstanding.  We were struck by Cameron Johnson's Wolf who went from seductive to frightening at the drop of a hat.  We were totally won over by Elora Ledger's Cinderella; her voice is beautifully affecting and her acting convincing.  Likewise The Baker's Wife, portrayed by Lieke van den Brock, who must fight to win parity with the Baker (a fine Andy Zimmerman).

McKenzie Custin garnered many laughs as the not-so-innocent Little Red Riding Hood and Kendrick Pifer excelled as the Witch who undergoes quite a transformation.  Jack (Jody Hinkley) played the dolt to the exasperation of his mother (Rachel Sandler).  Cinderella's Stepmother (Amanda Levy) had some fine moments with the two Stepsisters (Allison Crain and Alex Cummings).  Cinderella's deceased mother was beautifully sung by Kyle McCormick and Perry Lines was fine as Rapunzel.

In an intimate space without electronic interference, we in the audience could tell who was speaking/singing and actually understand the clever words.  Only the narrator could not be well understood all the time.

The set was simple: three wooden panels on wheels, painted to represent the woods on one side, and on the other sides, Cinderella's hearth, Jack's house, and the Baker's kitchen.  Everyone wore variations on pajamas and robes which, strangely enough, worked really well.  Sandy Siu is credited with Costume Coordination.

We hear that a film of the show has been cast with Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.  But we don't advise you to wait!  The performance at MSM will be repeated Monday and Thursday at 7:30 and again next Saturday at 2:30.  We don't think there is another show in town that will entertain you as royally!

© meche kroop

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