Oscar E Moore

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INTO THE WOODS – Sondheim under the stars is a midsummer’s night dream

August 10th, 2012 by Oscar E Moore

What a magnificent revival this is.  It seems as though INTO THE WOODS, the 1987 award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, was expressly written to be performed in the open and under the stars where all of its magic and enchantment fills the air with wonder at the Delacorte Theater which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of “FREE” summer productions in Central Park.

This Public Theater production is based on the 2010 Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre London production directed with a fresh and original concept by Timothy Sheader/Liam Steel which features a new look, new insight into character, and a young new narrator (a fine Noah Radcliffe / with Jack Broderick alternating in the role) – which beautifully frames the many interlocking story lines (where everyone wishes for something – and gets it) based on the Grimm fairy tales Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and an original The Baker and his Wife.  And a Witch.

A witch who is the mother of Rapunzel.  A witch who is out for revenge.  A witch who you do not want to mess with.  Played with passion and zeal and tenderness by the exquisite Donna Murphy.   Looking as though she is a gnarled tree come to life, hunched over and bellowing orders to listen, Donna Murphy is simply brilliant.  Watch her climb Rapunzel’s hair in awe.  Her transformation into her previous beautiful self (albeit without her magical powers) is quick and amazing.  Just one of the beautiful special effects throughout the production.  And her demise is literally earth-shattering.

The three tiered set of twigs topped by a nest for Rapunzel with a central spiral staircase by John Lee Beatty and Soutra Gilmour is a work of art that also houses the excellent orchestra – with fantastic sound (Acme Sound Partners) enabling us to hear clearly every single word, syllable and note that Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine have written in this earthy, gutsy, sexy and tender production.

Sarah Stiles as Little Red Ridinghood with her red biker helmet and flash camera is just as excited by the Wolff (Ivan Hernandez) as he is by the thought of having her for dinner.  It’s a lusty “Hello Little Girl” shared by both.

Mr. Hernandez doubles as Cinderella’s Prince and is delightful sharing his song “Agony” with Rapunzel’s Prince (Paris Remillard subbing for an ailing Cooper Grodin).  They are brothers that could be twins – always on the go with a spry and amusing jump to their steps.

The entire cast is to be admired – with special kudos going to Denis O’Hare and Amy Adams as the Baker and his wife who has a most distracting hairdo;  Jessie Mueller as Cinderella who continues on her way to stardom. 

Gideon Glick makes an excellent Jack mooning over his cow Milky White (puppetry by Rachael Canning) and singing a moving “Giants in the Sky”.  His mom is a riot (Kristine Zbornik).  Chip Zien, who was the original Baker, now entertains as the Mysterious Man.  And Glenn Close’s pre-recorded voice of the Giant bellowing – another incredible effect – is an extra added treat.

The finale “Children Will Listen” sung by Donna Murphy and the entire Company is a haunting and beautiful song that will leave you with a haunting and beautiful warning.  INTO THE WOODS soars at the Delacorte.  SEE IT.  www.publictheater.org  Extended through Sept. 1st

NOTE:  There will be a special FAMILY MATINEE – of ACT I on Wednesday August 22nd at 3pm  www.shakespeareinthepark.org/matinee  Photos:  Joan Marcus/word press

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