First off, the night couldn’t have been better—the temperature was wonderful and setting Into the Woods in a park is brilliant. Second, the set itself was amazing. A series of “trees” set with stairs and risers that rose all the way to a bower at the tippy top. So there were always levels in the choreography and that added a lot to the mystical feeling of the woods.
I’ve never seen Into The Woods Before, so have nothing to compare it to. But I loved the difference in the tones of the first and second act. The first (by Sondheim’s own definition) was farcical. Very funny. And the second was much more sobering (melodrama according to Sondheim) but still at times quite funny.
Donna Murphy as the witch was amazing. Her voice is so powerful and she physically embodies each character she plays. (We first saw her in Wonderful Town.) The costumes was really powerful as well. Especially hers. Although there are two places where the wardrobe malfunction I read about in the Post could have happened, thankfully for us, and Donna Murphy, it didn’t. The song Last Midnight was marvelous and Children Will Listen was so beautifully done, even the crickets (a nice touch—by nature) shut up.
Amy Adams was also good as the Baker’s wife. Not as strong a singer, but a delightful soprano and she definitely carried her role. The Baker (Denis O’Hare) was also good. Although for his big number, No One is Alone, his voice couldn’t quite keep up with Cinderella (Jessie Mueller, who was absolutely marvelous. We’d seen her in On A Clear Day). However, the Baker’s missteps, didn’t hurt the song. It was still so moving and powerful.
Gideon Glick who played Jack (of Beanstalk fame) was delightful, but for his big song (Giants in the Sky) he wasn’t up to the task, sadly. And so we lost a little of the power of his triumph. Still, he was really good otherwise and so it still worked for me.
My favorite in the entire cast (except maybe Donna Murphy) was Sarah Stiles who played Red Riding Hood. She was hysterical. (We also saw her in Putnam County Spelling Bee and I think in Avenue Q—although she might have been gone by the time we saw it). She has a great voice and uses it to full capacity. And the scene with her and the wolf had me laughing out loud (which I don’t do often). The wolf (played by Ivan Hernandez, also Cinderella’s prince) was so good—and reminiscent of a 1980’s romance hero. Which made it all that much more funny. The song Hello, Little Girl was wonderful.
The set was fairly simplistic electronically speaking, none of the technological pyrotechnics you so often see these days, which for the most part was charming and added to the dreamlike quality of the narrator’s story. I did think that the beanstalk was a bit hokey. But Glenn Close’s voice as the giant was a nice touch. And there are a few things that I’ll leave as a possible surprise…because it’ll be more fun that way.
The real star of the show though, was—as it always is with Sondheim—the music and lyrics. Music most specifically. It was haunting, memorable, intricate and everything we love about Sondheim. In short, possibly my favorite of his. Although I would probably say that about whichever I’ve just seen. If you have the chance this month enter the lottery or head to the park in the early hours to stand in line for tickets. Or like me—maybe your fairy Godmother will bestow them on you. Anyway you choose, it’s well, worth it.
Delacorte Theatre, Central Park. Tickets are free but must be obtained in advance. Runs through August 25th.