‘Into The Woods’ Broadway review: High-octane, unfiltered Sondheim

‘Into The Woods’ Broadway review: High-octane, unfiltered Sondheim

The chic new revival of the musical “Into The Woods” that opened Sunday evening on Broadway is radical. 

As a result of there may be completely nothing radical about it.

New York audiences lately have turn into accustomed — too accustomed, I say! — to the works of the late composer Stephen Sondheim getting used as weighty canvases for the machinations of auteur administrators. 

Theater evaluation

2 hours and 50 minutes, with one intermission. On the St. James Theater, 246 W forty fourth St.

Whether or not it’s John Doyle’s “Sweeney Todd” carried out by actor-musicians on a naked stage in 2006 or final season’s wonderful gender-swapped “Firm” helmed by Marianne Elliott, Sondheim exhibits have gotta get a gimmick. The latest Central Park revival of “Into The Woods” 10 years in the past modified the previous man narrator character to a bit of boy misplaced on a tenting journey. Certain!

Not this newest “Into The Woods,” although. What we expertise is the 1986 musical, plain and easy. (Granted, nothing Sondheim ever wrote was plain or easy.)

The brand new revival began as a preferred, streamlined live performance at Metropolis Heart this spring and has been schlepped over the river and thru the woods and throughout seventh Ave. to the St. James Theatre just about as is, save for some new solid members.

“Into The Woods” has a easy set, and is full of Broadway expertise. Evan Zimmerman

The costumes by Andrea Hood are fundamental storybook garments; there may be an precise orchestra onstage; David Rockwell’s set is just a few birch tree trunks and a few black steps. You don’t go away pondering, “What was the director doing with all these lasers?” 

God, that’s good.

The razor sharp focus right here, as an alternative, is on a divinely solid, crystal clear staging of the fairytale musical that intertwines the tales of Little Crimson Driving Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel right into a lesson about how maturity has no comfortable ending. 

You received’t quickly neglect Sara Bareilles’ excellent rendition of “Moments within the Woods,” a notoriously difficult music during which the Baker’s Spouse tries to rationalize some taboo forest frolicking. The actress is so heat and considerate through the quantity, but additionally flies by the seat of her pants. I’ve by no means seen such a relatable interpretation — she’s the Baker’s Spouse of Park Slope.

Sara Bareilles performs the Baker’s Spouse in “Into The Woods.” Evan Zimmerman

As her husband, a deep-feeling Brian D’Arcy James movingly wails “No Extra,” confronting the reminiscence of his misplaced father. And Phillipa Soo, as a conflicted Cinderella, melts the viewers with the ever-so-sad “No One Is Alone.”

There are two terrific Broadway debuts right here – Cole Thompson as Jack and Julia Lester taking part in that peppy spitfire Little Crimson. Thompson is good and harmless because the beanstalk climber, and lifts our spirits with that goosebumps solo “Giants In The Sky.” And in Lester, we witness a serious new comedic expertise emerge. All her well-known jokes really feel contemporary, and she or he is unbelievably humorous. My face was loads crimson from laughing so laborious.

Gavin Creel will get giggles, too, because the Huge Dangerous Wolf and alongside Josh Henry because the dummy princes.

Julia Lester makes a hilarious Broadway debut as Little Crimson. Evan Zimmerman

So, of all issues, does Milky White the cow. The manufacturing makes use of an especially expressive puppet that turns our bovine buddy into an cute Golden Retriever. The evening I attended, the function was performed by understudy Cameron Johnson, who obtained as a lot applause as any singing half did.

Patina Miller’s Witch works finest when the character is a chilly realist — not not like her “Cabaret” Emcee-like tackle the Main Participant in “Pippin.” She’s much less affecting when she painfully sings to her adopted daughter, Rapunzel, or croons that well-known lesson-song “Kids Will Pay attention.” Nonetheless, the actress is a vocal powerhouse.

“Into The Woods,” surprisingly, is popping into Sondheim’s best-remembered present over higher ones like “Sweeney Todd,” “A Little Night time Music” and “Firm.” Act II has all the time been a heavy-handed thicket of fast tragedies that doesn’t fairly land, however no person cares anymore. Due to the taped 1987 manufacturing and frequent highschool stagings (there’s even a “junior” model for youths), the present has jammed itself into the minds and hearts of a era of theatergoers. 

Some Australian buddies who didn’t know the fabric remarked that they felt like they have been at a panto, a boisterous call-and-response kind vacation present in Britain and Australia. 

How fantastic it’s to see a Sondheim musical encourage that kind of vitality from a crowd many years later. Right here’s hoping that development sticks — ever after.

About Muji Sakawari

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