Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Into the Woods in the park

Last night was the opening of Into the Woods for the second leg of Shakespeare in the Park, otherwise known as Sondheim in the Park. The opening was supposed to be Monday but was delayed due to weather (or at least that's what they said, but since they never cancel due to weather, I'm a little  skeptical as to the real reason). As luck would have it, I'm dating someone who has incredible luck at getting tickets through the virtual line (perhaps less lucky for him as a three hour musical is not the enticement for him that it is for me), so we were able to go opening night despite the crazy long physical line!

I should say up front that I'm not sure how objective I can be about this production because I'm such a fan of the show itself. My tech theater teacher in high school played Cinderella's Prince in a production of the show and so he had us watch a recording of the Bernadette Peters version (thinking back, all we really did in that class was watch movies...). I loved it. I've always enjoyed books and movies that reexamine fairy tale archetypes and motifs. Added to which, the wit and fast-paced lyrics in the show are just such fun. I'm not saying it's a perfect show, and it's not without its cheesy elements, but I think it has some good messages without being too heavy-handed. At that point I was hooked, the soundtrack went on my iPod and I spent the rest of high school and the better part of college quietly committing my favorite songs to memory.

Therefore, it is no surprise that I found the show last night to be wonderful. Donna Murphy as the witch was my favorite, although I think in part because her performance seemed to closely mirror Bernadette Peter's. The other actors were all wonderful as well. I thought Amy Adams was excellent as the baker's wife and the actor's who played both princes were also top notch. The only one who I thought was somewhat lacking, in the voice rather than acting department, was Denis O'Hare playing the baker. However, a friend who saw him in Sweet Charity a few years ago said she remembered his voice being great, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was more related to the mic problems they were having. I think they were working through a couple of audio issues on opening night, as a couple of times characters would cut off mid sentence. At first I thought they'd somehow forgotten their lines, but once it was accompanied by some audio noise and I realized it was a mic problem. Hopefully, they get all the kinks worked out as the show progresses, but it was really only a couple of times and didn't detract from the overall production.

I thought the way the production handled certain stage elements was really creative. The set wasn't overdone, but was a wooded scaffolding and tower that, I believe, recycled a few set pieces from the Forest of Arden in As You Like It. For elements like erecting a bean stalk or creating a moving giant or Grandma's cabin, the show handled it by having the cast hold up props that worked together fabulous in unison. I guess I'm not describing it that well, but I thought it was very clever to be able to work out a way to have these elements not appear off stage. The exit of the witch in the second act was also a nice use of staging, but I'll say no more on this for those who haven't seen it.

The most interesting thing about the production is that they made the character of the narrator a little boy who had run away from home. Having only seen one other production of the show, I don't know if this has been done before, but it was an interesting addition to have an added frame story. It tied in well with the themes of the show and especially the last act, so ultimately, I'll say I liked it, although at first I wasn't sure. The little boy who played this part, Jack Broderick, was very impressive. Apparently, he also appeared in Billy Eliot. I wondered if he was the son of Matthew Broderick, but I can't find that verified anywhere online.

Per the usual, you aren't allowed to take pictures in the Delacorte Theater, so instead I'll leave you a video from the other production. Enjoy!

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