Monday, June 18, 2007

"Into the Woods" for a Wonderful Summer

It was so much fun to attend the exhilarating Opening Night of our ’07 Summer Musical, Stephen Sondheim’s glorious Into the Woods. Joining in Friday evening’s celebration of Director/Choreographer Robin Arthur’s magnificent production were past and present Board leaders (and spouses) Rhona Arenstein, Roy Burgess, Kevin and Jeannie Kilgore, Charlotte and Andy McCutcheon, and Sara Belle and Neil November. Bifocals All-Stars Tom and Carlene Bass, John and Mary Jane Board, Vaughan Gary and Lyde Longacre lent enthusiastic support, as did Richmond theatre luminary Suzanne Pollard, who was beaming ear to ear throughout intermission.

The irresistible Essie Simms, who, legend has it, hasn’t missed a Barksdale production since the founding in 1953, brought Connie Sarvay, former Program Director at Westminster-Canterbury. Melinda Scott, Theatre Coordinator at Westminster, came as a special guest of the Novembers. Isabella Witt, who has been irreplaceable in the Barksdale family for decades, joined them for the evening’s festivities.

Also raising a glass to the new production were steadfast volunteer Jean Hartley, and dedicated staff members Sara Marsden, Andy Boothby, Joy Corbin, Judi Crenshaw, Catherine Dudley, Jackie Gann, Sarah Grady, Amy Sullivan, Wendy Vandergrift and Jennings Whiteway (who staged the tantalizing post-show reception).

Chase Kniffen, director of this summer’s Disney’s High School Musical, escorted his sister, Mary Carter Kniffen, in celebration of her high school graduation earlier this week. High School Musical cast members Gray Crenshaw, Hannah Miller and Andrea Ross eagerly soaked in the performances, anticipating their rehearsals that begin on Monday.

Several of Central Virginia’s most talented theatre artists were particularly enthused to realize that this was Barksdale’s first Sondheim since Sweeney Todd in 1982. Sandy Dacus, Paul Deiss, Tony Foley, Richard Koch, Dee Lynch, Jennifer Massey, Vickie McLeod, Joseph Papa, Melissa Johnston Price, Jim Smith-Parham, Linda Snyder, Jill Bari Steinberg, Erin Thomas, Robert Throckmorton, Lynn West, Donna Whiteway and Joy Williams enhanced the evening with their presence.

To whomever I’m leaving out, please forgive me. It was a busy night.

Director and Choreographer Robin Arthur, Musical Director Jimmy Hicks, Lighting Designer Lynne Hartmann, Costume Designer Terry Snyder, Props Master Jay Dempsey, Light Op Lynwood Guyton, and deck crewmates Virginia Varland and Jason Weinbarger all graciously accepted kudos as the audience waited for the actors to transform from witches, wolves etc. and join the party. Stage Manager Ginnie Willard, Assistant Stage Manager Rick Brandt, and Sound Op Wendy Vandergrift worked diligently to address various technical issues that needed their attention.

When at last they appeared, the 17 actors who make up our amazing cast were greeted with praise and admiration. The multi-talented ensemble includes Rachel Abrams, Ford Flannagan, Audra Honaker, Amy Hruska, Jackie Jones, Katrinah Lewis, Rita Markova, Robyn O’Neill, Steve Perigard, Zak Resnick, Kim Reuter, Russell Rowland, Drew Seigla, Craig Smith, Harriett Traylor, Eric Williams and Hannah Zold.

Appreciation was also showered upon our gifted orchestra, including musicians named above plus Claire Archer, Taylor Barnett, Jay Calabro, Bentley Cobb, Sarah Davis, Susan Davis, Doug Draucker, Rusty Farmer, Damian Muller, Roxanne O’Brien, Robert Quallich and Alex Samawicz.
As always, I will leave it to others to critique the show. But Phil Whiteway and I are thrilled with the production and proud of all the talented artists involved. We look forward to a long and glorious run of this enchanting American musical.

If you love great theatre, don’t miss this funny, soaring masterpiece from the foremost Broadway composer and lyricist of the last forty years.

Richmond Times-Dispatch review

Special thanks to the Title Sponsor of Into the Woods, Village Bank, who helped make this production possible.

--Bruce Miller

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