- CHARITY BENEFIT
The revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” needed to listen to the simplicity of children. I adore Stephen Sondheim musicals because I always knew the voices were going to be glorious or at the least the songs so well acted that I wouldn’t care, but the revivals lately, with the casting of stars, has taken down the quality of the work. Timothy Sheader’s production at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater in London on Youtube looked and sounded amazing but across the pond at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, the trip has not captured the magic or the “Grimm” of fairytales and is lost in translation. Maybe what makes this fairytale so disheartening is the expectation seemed so “Enchanted,” after all, its star Amy Adams was making her NY theatre debut.
This show starts with its visuals, designers John Lee Beatty and Soutra Gilmour’s re-creation of the terrific tree house at the Regent which is now an overgrown bird’s nest that looks like it escaped from the Swiss Family Robinson ride at Disneyland. When the actors arrive we are led into the story by a young boy played at my performance by Noah Radcliffe. This would be the one change that I found the most worthwhile. The child has run away due to a family squabble and he brings along his knack sack, which he dumps out. As he does, the stories come to life.
In this production the Baker (Denis O’Hare) and his Wife (Ms. Adams), are still on a quest for a child. Part one of the problem is the hideous costumes by Emily Rebholz and horrible wigs by Leah Loukas which make Ms. Adams, as well as others, look God awful. These two central characters need chemistry so we feel something for them, here they are just one-trick ponies and Mr. O’Hare cannot sing. The vein of their problem stems from the Witch (Donna Murphy). Murphy is made to look like a tree but she manages to act and sing her way out of the stumps. Little Red Riding Hood (Sarah Stiles, who makes skater chicks oh so fun) is made up-to-date with a red jacket and a matching helmet. The Wolf (the fabulous Ivan Hernandez) is now hot and enticing. Instead of Little Red being the meal she wants him and who wouldn’t! Dang, any girl or guy with a pulse would. He doubles as the prince for Cinderella (Jessie Mueller) who is now dowdy until she at least gets to look like a princess. Her Stepmother (Ellen Harvey) and Step Sisters (Bethany Moore and Jennifer Rias) have turned into some bizarro goth band. Jack (Gideon Glick), is a nerd, and his mother (Kristine Zbornik) a shutin. Chip Zien, the Baker in the original Broadway production, has been diminished to the role of the Mysterious Man but his duet with O’Hara will have you wondering why he was demoted and not just given back his original role.
As for the talent, songs like “I Guess This is Goodbye,” “Giants in the Sky,” “It Takes Two,” “Moments in the Woods” and most especially “No More” are just sung badly. Ms. Adams should stick to films because on stage she is bland as well as Mr. Glick as Jack, but at least she can sing the notes. Ms. Murphy sings everything but “Children Will Listen” with passion and a grand voice but that monumental song is weak. Sarah Stiles who makes us cringe and love the little valley girl led astray. The vocally prowess aooooh Ivan Hernandez steals the shows as we, at least, sit up and drool. Jessie Mueller and Tess Soltau (Rapunzel/Sleeping Beauty), sing well but, I just found myself caught in the brambles as I sat there wanting to like this and did not. The production made me feel like I was being swallowed up by the terrific bed puppetry by Rachael Canning.
Into the Woods: A Shakespeare in the Park production, based on the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater production, Delacorte Theater, Central Park, at 81st Street and Central Park West, until Sept. 1st. This show runs 3 hours.