‘Into the Woods’ rustles Mother Goose’s feathers

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Teens have an alternative to hanging out or being couch potatoes - the Community Youth Center at the Great Neck Library offers them an array of activities.

Among the most popular of these is "Levels," where teens act and sing in plays and musicals. Adult staff members are on hand to help.

Saturday evening was the final performance of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's "Into the Woods," which was on Broadway in the 1990s.

The play is an amalgam of fairy tales, where witches dwell, evil spells can be broken and there is much angst as well as many moments when tongue is inserted into cheek. The stories are from Mother Goose and The Brothers Grimm books, When these were read to us at bedtime, they were sometimes scary, but did we ever think about what happened to the characters after they "lived happily ever after?" That's what this topsy-turvy musical is about - or maybe not.

The cast was, simply, outstanding. Young folks, experienced in other shows and some first timers, acted and sang the whole range of Sondheim's complicated material like pros. Casey Alexandra wife) had great stage presence and lovely voices, especially in their duets. Little Red Riding Hood was well-acted and sung by Samantha Zahabian.

Elyse Nicodemi (Witch) was very convincing as the mother who imprisons her daughter, Rapunzel in a high tower so that she will have her near always. There is a great transformation scene from wicked witch to a hip 21st century lady dressed in a tight red dress. She has to find something else to do, since she lost her magic powers. Nicodemi sang the sexy song, "Witch's Lament," to loud applause from the audience.

The other fairy-tale characters were: two princely brothers singing "Agony," about the absence of love,. since both were looking for suitable mates. The brothers are Zack Linder and Jake Lederman, who are Cinderella's Prince and Rapunzel's Prince. Linder was comedic, spontaneous and had a great time "riding" through the woods on his royal (hobby) horse. Watch out for Zack Linder: he seems on track to Broadway.

The Narrator, who links the scenes, is Amalia Curcio. The brave Jack, of Beanstalk fame, is sung by Laura Simon, who does "his" best to save the family 's cow, Milky-White, and slay the mighty Giant. The ensemble of singers and dancers make the chorus shine under the able baton of accompanist Frank DeMonaco musical director.

Director Rebecca Montalbano also played the part of Cinderella's stepmother. She is a tiny bundle of energy, and shows that a stepmother can be blond, brainy and beautiful. She acknowledged a debt of gratitude to Barry Well, Levels theater program coordinator; Tom Pearson, choreographer; and musical directors Ethan Mann, Frank DeMonaco and Meegan Bemstein.

"Into the Woods" tells of a journey on the road to maturity. The characters learn they need to be responsible for the people around them. As the final lyric says:

Careful the things you say.

Children will listen.

Careful the things you do,

Children will see,

And learn. Then, people can become connected to each other, worldwide.

For information about future shows, call Levels at 516-466-8055, Ext. 217. The Great Neck Library is on Bayview Avenue near the Grist Mill. There is on-site parking.

Reach Qguide writer Anita Raymon by e-mail at timesledgr@aol.com, or call 229 0300, Ext. 139.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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