Running Time: 3 hours
Tickets: free (are available same day at theater at 1 pm), but must be booked by telephone at 212-539-8750 or visit www.shakespeareinthepark.org
Closes: Sept. 1
NEW YORK—What more suitable site to present this revival of the 1987 Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical “Into the Woods” than the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Inserted within the park’s own greenery is John Lee Beatty and Soutra Gilmour’s jungle-gym setup of ramps, stairs, and platforms, topped with a huge nest-like structure—a treehouse for the ages.
Fairy-tale characters like Cinderella (sweet-voiced Jessie Mueller), an adorably feisty Little Red Riding Hood (Sarah Stiles) and her vis-à-vis, the seductive Wolf (Ivan Hernandez), and long-haired Rapunzel (Tess Soltau) make up some of the cast.
The Baker’s Wife (tough and tender Amy Adams) and her husband the Baker (courageous Denis O’Hare) have been given a tough assignment by the most passionate and threatening Witch one can imagine.
The Witch appears in the person of that terrific performer Donna Murphy, wearing a grungy dark gown and raging like a character snatched from a Japanese Kabuki play. She can only spell tough times and tragedy.
The Witch informs the couple, who desperately want a child, that they must produce an assortment of items—a white cow, a red cape, a lock of yellow hair—before they can produce a baby. A series of misadventures follows, featuring all of the above characters and more.
Jack (Gideon Glick) of Beanstalk fame produces some magic beans, Rapunzel lets down her very long hair from the vantage point of the nest mentioned earlier, and two sappy princes—played by Paris Remillard (at the performance I saw) and Ivan Hernandez—do some fancy serenading, working together handsomely as a duo.
Noah Radcliffe, who alternates performances with Jack Broderick, effectively played the young Narrator.
There are some warm moments, as when Jack leads his pet cow about—its many-jointed structure possibly taking a nod from “Warhorse.” Later in the show, the sudden appearance of an enormous giant above the trees brings a gasp from the audience; its deep voice is none other than that of Glenn Close. (Puppetry courtesy Rachael Canning).
Of course, with Stephen Sondheim responsible for music and lyrics, there are some lovely songs, with the Baker and his Wife sounding out with “Maybe They’re Magic,” and “It Takes Two,” to name just two. Donna Murphy’s Witch powerfully comes forth with “Stay With Me,” and “Witch’s Lament,” and the entire company takes part in the popular, tuneful finale, “Children Will Listen.”
A nice casting touch is Chip Zien as the Mysterious Man, having played the Baker in the original production.
Director Timothy Sheader with co-director Liam Steel helmed this lavish, complex production. Kudos to Emily Rebholz for her dazzling assortment of costumes. Not to be overlooked is Ben Stanton, whose lighting added immeasurably to the mysterious effects often required. Solid music direction is by Paul Gemignani.
It’s a lovely way to spend an evening under the New York stars and a plus that tickets are free—as provided by the Public Theater.
Diana Barth writes and publishes “New Millennium,” an arts publication. For information: email@example.com.
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