REVIEW: Take a wondrous romp ‘Into the Woods’
What lies beyond happily ever after?
From David Patrick Kelly’s initial rich and spirited vocals as Narrator uttering the classic line, ‘Once upon a Time’ from a treelike podium, it is easy to see that Into the Woods is no ordinary fairytale. To Stephen Sondheim’s complex tapestry of famous storytelling numbers ranging from stirring ballads to catchy compositions, Into the Woods brings together some of literature’s most famous fairytale characters on a multi-arc journey through an enchanted wood. It’s a place where fortune smiles, but like every fairy tale, the road winds with surprise twists, turns and resounding life lessons for adults and children alike.
Directed shrewdly by Lear deBessonet, seamlessly choreographed by Lorin Latarro with meticulous music direction by John Bell, the Grammy and Tony award-winning musical Into the Woods continues direct from Broadway live and in person at Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, April 2. The musical is 2 hours and 45 minutes including one intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Into the Woods boasts some absorbing special effects and Tyler Micoleau’s affective and multicolored lighting enlivens David Rockwell’s moving and immersive set with includes an onstage orchestra and a monstrous full moon.
Storytelling has never sounded better with David Patrick Kelly at the helm. Kelly brings gravitas and zealously delivers this humorous, adventurous, and poignant tale which includes a baker and his wife’s unfortunate encounter with a witch that drives them to embark on an unexpected journey. Into the Woods was revived on Broadway last year and with that, the characters seem more boisterous, the jokes sleeker, and cast’s quick witted comic timing and bold and hilarious adlibbing enrich the characters and their plights while occasionally breaking the 4th wall.
The chemistry between this savvy cast crackles and they master Sondheim’s technically challenging harmonies in several collaborative numbers including the musical’s title track. Andrea Hood’s edgy, vibrant and lavish costumes are well suited for Nancy Opel as Cinderella’s stepmother and Ta’nika Gibson and Brooke Ishibashi as Cinderella’s fashion conscious stepsisters. Opel’s sarcastic fervor and tight lipped Cheshire smile is reminiscent of Jennifer Saunders and the conceited trio relishes in their own villainy. Gibson and Ishibashi is a pair of self-absorbed bookends who comically parade in their excessive glory, unaware of how foolish they seem. Diane Phelan impressively depicts an exasperated and contemplative Cinderella, her soaring and angelic vocals shine for the deliberative, A Very Nice Prince and conspiratorially for On the Steps of the Palace.
The show’s edgy and coordinating costumes are also prevalent on a pair of egotistical and coiffed Prince Charmings in dazzling fuchsia by Jason Forbach and in brilliant yellow by Gavin Creel. Every bit the scene stealing pair, the two prance and pose like rock stars, their comic timing on point for the backhanded and love struck, Agony. Creel also utilizes some of that lively charm and Jim Carrey-esque energy with some menacing glee for Hello Little Girl with Katy Geraghty in a surly little scowl as blunt, daring, and voracious Red Riding Hood. Geraghty’s strong willed Riding Hood is fierce and exhibits incredible dry wit throughout the production, but especially with Sebastian Archelus as the proud and humble Baker and Stephanie J. Block as the conflicted Baker’s Wife in a bit of physical humor involving a loaf of bread. Archelus and Block are married in real life which only enhances their playful and affectionate duet, It takes Two. Block emotive eyes and desperate demeanor draws sympathy toward her plight, even in her occasionally warped reasoning for Maybe There’s Magic.
Cole Thompson is wonderful as idealistic and naïve Jack in an amazing rendition of Giants in the Sky and has some sweet and humorous scenes with Aymee Garcia as Jack’s protective and practical mother as well as Kennedy Kanagawa, who is one of a few lively personalities depicted splendidly through puppetry.
Montego Glover glides along the stage maliciously as The Witch, but maybe unlike one found in any other fairytale. Glover depicts this harsh and complex practicality with vigor, finesse, and perhaps as a wearied storyteller all her own. The Witch’s multi-faceted demeanor stuns in a harrowing rendition of Stay with Me and in a riveting The Last Midnight.
Into the Woods made its musical debut in 1987 and there is a reason it still thrives over 35 years later. It still has that timeless wonder, humor and charm, but more importantly, it metaphorically encapsulates realistic complexities of life in a fairytale that reaches happily ever after…and beyond.
The Grammy and Tony award-winning musical Into the Woods continues direct from Broadway live and in person at Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, April 2. Click here for more information and for tickets.