Thursday, August 4, 2022

Broadway Theater Review: Into the Woods

Aymee Garcia, Cole Thompson, Kennedy Kanagawa
Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
Into the Woods
By James Lapine
Music by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Lear deBessonet
Music Direction by Rob Berman
Choreography by Lorin Latarro
St. James Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
An all-star cast and a classic musical combine for a terrific time at the theater at Into the Woods, playing the Great White Way following an acclaimed Off-Broadway run at City Center's Encores.

This is the first Broadway stop for the Sonheim Musical, with a book by James Lapine, in more than 20 years. It was worth the wait. 

The magical story brings together beloved fairytale characters in a twisted story about being careful what you wish for and figuring out what you are willing to do to keep what you get when your wish is granted.

This delightful production, skillfully helmed by Lear deBessonet, is a treat for the ears and eyes.

Brian D'arcy James and Sara Bareilles are the baker and his wife who desperately wish for a child. Patina Miller is the scary witch who will help them if they will get her three things she wants. Along the way, they meet up with Cinderella (Phillipa Soo) and her family (Nancy Opel, Ta'nika Gibson, Albert Guerzon and Brooke Ishibashi), two princes (Gavin Creel and Joshua Henry), Jack of Beanstalk fame (Cole Thompson), his mother (Aymee Garcia) and their cow, Milky White (puppeteer Kennedy Kanagawa) as well as Little Red Riding Hood (Julia Lester making a standout Broadway debut) and a bunch of other characters (David Patrick Kelly, David Turner and Alysia Velez round out the featured cast).

Soon, everyone needs to put aside his own issues to unite against a terrible giant (voiced by Annie Golden, who also plays Granny and Cinderella's mother). 

Take a look again at that cast list and you will see some of the best voices on Broadway listed. Hearing "Agony," "It Takes Two," "No one is Alone." and "Children Will Listen" have never sounded better. Miller is the best witch I ever have seen -- the first that gives her some character and depth. Look for a Tony nomination here.

The sets, masterfully designed by David Rockwell, are simple and allow the focus to be on the rich lyrics, beautiful music and subtle choreography by Lorin Latarro. This, much like The Music Man packing them in for a feel-good musical on a Broadway stage, has an enthusiastic audience and has extended its run at the St. James Theatre, 246 W 44th St., NYC through Oct. 16. The cast embraces the silliness and Director deBessonet trusts that the audience is smart enough to follow the more serious messages contained in the tale. When Cinderella's stepmother asks when things will return to normal, current events some quickly to mind.

Cast changes are coming, so check the show's website for the most up-to-date information.

Notes: 
Sara Bareilles, Brian d’Arcy James, and Phillipa Soo continue through Sept. 4.
Stephanie J. Block, Sebastian Arcelus, real-life wife and husband, join as the Baker’s Wife and the Baker, respectively, on Sept. 6. Also joining the company on Sept. will be Krysta Rodriguez as Cinderella, Katy Geraghty as Little Red Ridinghood and Jim Stanek as the Steward.

Montego Glover will share the role of The Witch with Miller, who will continue playing The Witch for performances on Fridays through Sundays, with Glover taking over the role Tuesdays through Thursdays. 

Gavin Creel and Joshua Henry will continue as the Wolf/Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince, respectively, though Andy Karl will step into the role of the Wolf/Cinderella’s Prince from Sept. 6- 15, due to a prior commitment for Creel. Creel will return to the production on Sept. 16. Beginning on Sept.27, Ann Harada will play the role of Jack’s Mother, which she originated in the City Center Encores! production.

Additional casting:
Delphi Borich, Felicia Curry, Jason Forbach, Alex Joseph Grayson, Paul Kreppel, Mary Kate Moore, Cameron Johnson, Diane Phelan, Lucia Spina -- ensemble.

Additional credits:
Andrea Hood (Costume Design), Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Design), Scott Lehrer and Alex Neumann (Co-Sound Designers), James Ortiz (Puppet Design) and Cookie Jordan (Hair, Wigs and Makeup Design).

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
  • Although this is a fairytale, the themes are dark and this show really would be for older kids. When schools license a production, they perform only the first act, which is lighter.














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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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