INTO THE WOODS
Synopsis: Little Red has strayed far from the path, Jack’s found a second beanstalk, Prince Charming’s eyes are wandering, and there’s a Witch living next door. Stephen Sondheim’s most popular musical turns the world of fairy tales topsy-turvy, reminding us that granted wishes often bring complications. Filled with exquisite music and brilliant lyrics, this innovative new production is sure to enchant as it ventures beyond “happily ever after.”
Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods is an instant Broadway classic, an epic fairy tale twisted dark that would make the Grimm Brothers pleased with the adaptation. The story of Into the Woods features the Baker (portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife (portrayed by Sara Barellis) entering the woods at the witch’s request (portrayed by Heather Headly) in order to remove the curse preventing them from having a child by acquiring a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. Along the way they encounter various other fairytale characters with these items to acquire; Jack (portrayed by Cole Thompson), Little Red Riding Hood (portrayed by Julia Lester), and Cinderella (portrayed by Denée Benton) to round out the leading characters in the show.
Encores! took this Stephen Sondheim classic and portrayed it in concert style with minimalist scenic design by David Rockwell, this production shows us that Into the Woods thrives when it is stripped back and let’s the complicated story and music be the star of the show. Featuring simplistic trees and flat facing little houses, the set allows the story to be enhanced. Despite being dubbed as a concert style production, this felt very much like it was ready for Broadway with little to no tweaks. The direction from the team Lear deBessonet (Director), Lorin Latarro (Choreographer), and Rob Berman (Music Director) really showcased the staff in the most positive light. This casting was perfect and every single person made this 3 hour performance not feel long enough.
Heather Headly’s portrayal of the Witch was what drew myself and my husband to see this adaptation specifically and she did not disappoint. She proved in every single scene that she was making this character her own, big shoes to fill after Bernadette Peters and Vanessa Williams in previous adaptations starred as the witch to rave reviews. Heather Headly was perfect as the witch and can comfortably sit alongside these two women with her portrayal. Other break out performance came from the puppet milky white, expertly maneuvered by Kennedy Kanagawa. Kennedy gave the cardboard and wooden cow so much life to the point where it was practically chewing on the scenery delivering expert laughs. If anyone deserves a special honors Tony, it’s that cow.
Overall, this was so difficult to find things to point out as negative. The ball gown by Cinderella I didn’t love, but it was concert style so not the primary focus, and one costume out of all of the others being less than desirable is not show breaking. Rapunzel’s hair also looked like a bad wig, but wasn’t so distracting to the point of being all that could be focused on. Into the Woods presented by Encores! Receives from me a 6/5. Rarely do I ever leave anything going, “I think that was as close to perfect as we will ever get.”
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