Into the Woods is in my top-3 favorite Sondheim musicals. I was mildly enthralled with the last revival of Into the Woods in 2002. I also had a minor crush on the actor who played Jack. I saw that revival twice and memorized the words when the cast recording was released. Was it the best production ever? Probably not, but it did the trick to spark my interest in the show. When I heard it was going to be one of the shows at Shakespeare in the Park this year, I knew I wanted to see it. After the cast was announced, I knew tickets would be hard to get and after a good two weeks of playing the virtual lotto, my friend Kristen and I gave up and I volunteered to get to the park way-too-early so we could secure tickets.
We’d last waited in line together to get tickets to the 40th anniversary stage of HAIR at the Delacorte in 2007, until to last weekend. I said I’d get there at 6am and she could meet me whenever (as she lives a tad further away now). And of course in true Public Theater tradition when I woke up last Saturday at 5, it was pouring (like last time). I grabbed my huge blue and white umbrella, a straw sun mat to sit on, some sustenance, and a fully charged cell phone and headed out.
I was 75-100th on the line but an employee from the Public assured us that we were fine and getting tickets. I slept for maybe half an hour, played around on my cell phone and watched as my yoga pants became increasingly soiled with sand and dirt. There were a few more showers, including one huge downpour. Kristen met me around 10:30 and told me to go home to change out of my soaked, dirty clothes (a command that I happily obeyed). The line grew and grew and the end was nowhere in sight around 12pm. We were eventually told to stand and we got our tickets (after which we hopped on the subway down to Second Stage to see if we could get tickets to Dogfight – score!). Fast forward to 7:15-ish and we take our time walking to the Delacorte, grabbing sandwiches at the theatre’s cafe once we’d arrived (AWESOME sandwiches btw).
We were both exhausted from the day but totally stoked to see what we’d heard was an innovative production. The weather was perfect and the sun was beginning to set behind Belvedere Castle. James Earl Jone’s voice bellowed from the speakers, thanking their donors, and the little boy came downstage and dumped his backpack out to begin the show.
The set was incredible (as you can see above). It was one of my favorite parts of the show. Morgan James had it all wrong when she said musicianship was dead because of this production. Dead wrong. The orchestra sounded beautiful, as did the voices. The lighting was perfect, and I especially enjoyed the way in which they created the giant in the trees.
I was excited to see the wonderful Denis O’Hare as the baker, and he was as impressive as expected. Donna Murphy, as the Witch, blew me away with her interpretation and voice. I was skeptical of Amy Adams as the Baker’s Wife as I’d heard mixed things about her, but I was fully impressed equally by her acting and her voice. There may have been a high note or two that she couldn’t sustain, but overall, she was very good. Ivan Hernandez was insanely entertaining as the Wolf (also as Cinderella’s Prince, but more so as the Wolf), and his interpretation of the Wolf was intensely sexual. Lest we forget Chip Zien, as the Mysterious Man, who starred in the original Broadway production as the baker. He’s a brilliantly hilarious actor and he brought everything he had to his role.
My favorite re-interpretation of a character was provided by Sarah Stiles, as Little Red Ridinghood. She was equal parts playful, smart, edgy, obnoxious, and sexual (when it came to the Wolf). Her voice was great also, and I loved her costume (it could best be described as a mix between a traditional Little Red and Leaf Coneybear from Spelling Bee).
Honorable mentions must be made for Gideon Glick, as Jack, who was entertaining and endearing in his portrayal, and Jessie Mueller, as Cinderella, who really does have the beautiful voice that everyone said was the only reason to see On A Clear Day.
Into the Woods was three hours long, but it certainly didn’t feel like three hours. I left the theatre feeling satisfied and happy. Another magical, perfect night at the Delacorte completed. As we exited the park at 11pm, people were already lined up for the next night’s performance. Luckily for them, it wasn’t supposed to rain that night.