Into the Woods

Thursday, December 29, 2005 at 8:00pm
Lucie Stern Theatre
Palo Alto, CA

Not counting the very first time I saw Into the Woods put on by the Davis Musical Theatre Company (a community theatre production), I had only seen the DVD of the original Broadway cast, which gave me some high expectations going into this, but for the most part, TheatreWorks fulfilled most of them. (I will be doing a lot of comparison, though -- just as a warning.)

First, the cast:

Narrator   Francis Jue   Cinderella   Cristin Boyle
Jack   Robert Brewer   Milky-White   Bill Olson
Baker   Jackson Davis   Baker's Wife   Christiane Noll
Cinderella's Stepmother/Granny   Suzanne Grodner   Florinda   Alison Ewing
Lucinda/Giant   *   Jack's Mother   Maureen McVerry
Little Red Ridinghood   Courtney Stokes   Witch   C. Kelly Wright **
Cinderella's Father   Martin Rojas-Dietrich   Cinderella's Mother/Sleeping Beauty   Kristen Sharpley
Mysterious Man/Bishop   Gary S. Martinez   Wolf/Steward   James Monroe Iglehart
Rapunzel   Tielle Baker   Rapunzel's Prince   Patrick Leveque
Cinderella's Prince   Michael Hunsaker   Harp/Snow White   Kristin Stokes

* (didn't catch the name of who substituted this role)
** C. Kelly Wright substituted for Thursday Farrar

Overall, the entire show was very well executed. I remember reading that Into the Woods is one of the more complicated musicals to put on, and I'm sure it requires endless rehearsals to get all the timing down, but this cast had it all down pat and it was very impressive.

The stage at the Lucie Stern Theatre (which is a community theatre) is rather small, and there was a narrow (1-foot across at the most) strip of stage going behind the conductor and right over the orchestra pit that the performers crossed on numerous occasions that I thought was a little precarious, but otherwise the size of the stage didn't really hinder the show much at all. I was a little bothered, though, by the sudden "geysers" of "smoke" that would suddenly shoot up quite violently from the stage each time the Witch threw a spell at someone. They were more annoying than anything else. Seemed there could have been a better way to do that.

Also, I have yet to figure out what, if any, revisions were done after the revival of Into the Woods in 1992. I thought there was a new song added in for the Witch and Rapunzel ("Our Little World"), but it wasn't in this performance, which was more or less identical to what I'm familiar with pre-revival.

I've always felt this show is somewhat imbalanced between the first and second acts. The first act is almost pure comedy (at least the way it was portrayed here) without a whole lot of emotion (with perhaps an exception for "Stay With Me"). The second act, on the other hand, while it has its share of humor, is much more emotional, sad, and somewhat poignant, but crosses over into being overly melodramatic (at least with comparison to the first act). But at the same time, it is in the second act when the "point" of the show becomes clear and when some of the most important life lessons come across. It perhaps isn't all that subtle, but when are fairy tales ever subtle?

The only thing I have to nitpick about the entire cast's performance was that I felt that everyone over-acted a little bit at some place or another (and some more often than not). But at the same time, maybe it was necessary since their voices weren't really being amplified much at all and had to put a little extra to project and carry to the back of the theatre.

Tidbits and individual performances:

More later, perhaps, if anything else comes to mind.