Into the Woods

We had the amazing opportunity to see Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park thanks to a wonderful friend who couldn’t go and gave us her tickets.

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.

photo of the cast from

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.


There is something magical about Stephen Sondheim’s musicals.  And Follies, playing a limited run at Marquis theatre was no exception.   I went because I am a huge fan of Bernadette Peters.   Having seen her in A Little Night Music, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to see her again.

But beyond just hearing Peters sing, I also experienced a wonderful production with a story centering on how our past affects not only our present but our future.  The stories of Sally and Buddy and Phyllis and Benjamin serve as the center of a delicious confections that includes one of the best groups of supporting actors I’ve seen gathered for a single performance.  Every number was an absolute delight.

Peters frazzled Sally was the perfect foil to Kirsten Scott’s elegant (and repressed) Phyllis.  Peters first act number (a wild combination of truth and lies) In Buddy’s Eyes was flawlessly performed with her trademark ability to transcend the music and communicate instead the emotion at the heart of it.   Scott’s Could I leave You in Act 2 had similar power and in many ways was one of the strongest moments in the musical.

However, the showstopper, and I mean that in a literal sense, was Who’s that Woman, a company number lead by Terri White.   If you see this woman’s name in anything… GO.  She’s fantastic.  I’ve heard of showstoppers my entire life.  Can even reel off a number of the ones that were exactly that in their day.  But I’ve never been present for one.  And it was truly a treat.   Ms. White was amazing and held the audience in the palm of her hand.  Other members of the cast were equally delicious, including Elaine Paige, playing Carlotta and slaying the crowd, as well as Jayne Houdyshell and Mary Beth Peil.

Although the younger cast was also superb, the old gals had them in spades.  And I can’t remember a musical where I’ve so looked forward to the next number.

And beyond the music, the staging itself was truly magnificent.  The shades of the women as young girls (the play is set in the crumbling ruins of what was once a theatre housing the Follies—and the reunion on the eve of its destruction of many of the former performers, including Sally and Phyllis) that still haunt the theatre are beguiling and spellbinding and when they become shadows of their older selves as in Who’s that Woman, it is sheer magic.

All in all a wonderful night at the theatre.   Unfortunately, Follies closed its limited run on January 22, but if there’s a cast album…buy it!

Follies, Marquis Theatre