COURTESY BRAD GODA / DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
Jimi Wheeler is the Prince and Elizabeth Hartnett stars as Cinderella.
‘In the Woods’ is a long walk with scenic beauty
There was a time in the '60s when the fad of the moment was 40-mile hikes. Diamond Head Theatre's summer production of "Into the Woods" is the theatrical equivalent of one of those all-day hikes. There's lots of beautiful scenery, but it takes a long, long time to reach the finish line.
'Into the Woods'
» Place: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
» On stage: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through July 30
» Tickets: $12 to $42
» Call: 733-0274 or diamondheadtheatre.com
The story brings together characters from five familiar fairytales. A baker and his wife are told by the witch who has cursed them with a childless marriage that she will reverse the spell in exchange for four items: the cow from "Jack and the Beanstalk," a lock of Rapunzel's golden hair, Little Red Riding Hood's red cloak and one of Cinderella's slippers.
The stories are scrambled together as the couple attempts to get the items. The concept may sound like a knock-off of Lisa Matsumoto's successful pidgin fairytales, but the truth is that "Into the Woods" opened on Broadway in 1987, several years ahead of Matsumoto's first local hit -- but several decades after "Fractured Fairy Tales" debuted on "Rocky & Bullwinkle."
It takes 90 minutes for the five stories to play out to their "happily ever after" endings. The wolf is dead, Jack is rich, and Cinderella and Rapunzel are married to charming princes. The "hike" is far from over, however. Another act remains.
Things get darker and more political after intermission. The giant's wife shows up, looking for the thief who murdered her husband. When Jack seeks sanctuary, the other characters wrangle over whether they should flee, turn Jack over to the giant, or fight back. (Any similarities to world politics -- in 1987 or 2006 -- are in the eye of the beholder.)
Scott Moura and Zenia Zambrano Moura, a couple in real life, are likewise well-matched as the baker and his wife. Scott, always good in "every man" roles, is excellent as a guy forced by circumstances to set aside his knowledge of right and wrong. The scenes and songs that show the baker and his wife growing closer as they work together also display the couple's versatility as singers and actors in fine style.
The comic stars are Jimi V. Wheeler and Elitei Tatafu Jr. Wheeler comes on early as the Wolf who stalks Little Red Riding Hood, and plays the character with the panache and sexual charisma of an old-time rock star. Imagine Rum Tum Tugger, the sexually aggressive "Cats" character on steroids -- that's the intensity level of Wheeler's performance. Wheeler returns after the Wolf's demise to play Cinderella's charming prince, and is superb in that role as well.
Tatafu plays the prince's younger brother, who falls in love with Rapunzel. He and Wheeler are excellent together. They've got the voices, the body language, timing and teamwork down. Few of the Stephen Sondheim songs are memorable, but "Agony," the princes' big number, is a show stopper.
Zenia Zambrano Moura joins Wheeler on another musical highlight, "Any Moment," and then works magic with a solo, "Moments in the Woods."
Pedro Armando Haro proves a master of quick costume changes in the roles of the Narrator and Mysterious Man; Kyle Malis personifies the feckless voice of bureaucracy with a nicely underplayed portrayal of the Steward; Sandra W. Lee makes a beautiful local debut as Cinderella's mother.
Musical director Roslyn Catracchia and sound designer Mikel J. Humerickhouse share credit for the perfect balance between musicians and singers. Jess Aki (make-up and hair) and Bryan D. Furer (special make-up) likewise deserve credit -- particularly for Paris' elaborate makeover into the Witch, and Wheeler's wolf make-up. Douglas S. Scheer (props) provides an assortment of accessories -- a white cow with a convenient carrying handle tops the list.
Expect a long "hike" despite this beautiful scenery. The comic aspects guard against much emotional investment in the outcome, but the serious themes that percolate through the action pose thought-provoking questions about contemporary American values.