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Reviving the Woods
The Broadway revival production of Into the Woods took home two Tony Awards, for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Lighting, on Sunday, June 6. The revival received eight additional nominations:

  • Leading Actress in a Musical - Vanessa Williams
  • Leading Actor in a Musical - John McMartin
  • Featured Actress in a Musical - Laura Benanti
  • Featured Actor in a Musical - Gregg Edelman
  • Director of a Musical - James Lapine
  • Choreography - John Carrafa
  • Scenic Design - Douglas W. Schmidt
  • Costume Design - Susan Hilferty

Photo by Joan Marcus
Kerry O'Malley (The Baker's Wife), Stephen DeRosa (The Baker) and Vanessa Williams (The Witch)


Reviews following the production's opening night in California were extremely positive. Variety said it has "aged like fine wine" and "is as accessible and robust as the original, but also far more balanced and mature. And it demonstrates that the show's complexity was genuine." The Los Angeles Times calls this production a "richly textured production" that "emerges from the thickets in triumph." The Los Angeles Daily News suggests that "'enchanting' isn't a strong enough word for what's on stage."

Meanwhile, reviews for the Broadway production were more more mixed:

"Follow the music. It will take you somewhere wonderful. Mr. Sondheim has written songs that are indeed like fairy tales in their surface simplicity and echoing depths. Yet as is often the case with this composer, what surrounds the music only occasionally touches the same levels of complexity... Not that Mr. Lapine... doesn't provide intellectual ambition and theatrical flair." - Ben Brantley, The New York Times

"...last night at the Broadhurst Theatre we were once more happily lured Into the Woods... Not much has changed - it is as bright, intriguing, funny, complex, puzzling, charming, slightly preachy and musically elaborate as ever. And with a sinuous and intensely glamorous Vanessa Williams doing a sassy star-turn in place of the perkier Bernadette Peters, and a sweetly geriatric John McMartin shuffling his way through as the Narrator, the cast, as a whole, holds its own with the past." - Clive Barnes, The New York Post

"James Lapine, who directed the original production as well as the current revival, has figured out how to eliminate this disparity. Here he has found a single tone for everything: It is coarse from start to finish." - Howard Kissel, The New York Daily News

"A mute cow, believe it or not, is the life of the party... This revival... isn't wholly dependent on its scene-stealing bovine for the new spring in its step, to be sure. But you could say that Chad Kimball's nimble performance in this mute role... has resulted in a major mood swing for this knotty musical. With some splashy special effects, fleet choreography by John Carrafa and performers who bring piles of sass, wit and sparkle to their roles, this is a flashier and blessedly brisker presentation of Sondheim and Lapine's crazy quilt of fairy tales for our unhappy-ever-after age. No, it doesn't solve the problems of a show that still lacks cohesion and concision - and, on a deeper level, authentic emotional appeal. But in taking itself less seriously, the new production does render those flaws less deleterious, and it allows the gems in Sondheim's score to glitter bewitchingly." - Charles Isherwood, Variety

"...its cautionary fairy tales still enhanced by Stephen Sondheim's marvelous songs and stymied by James Lapine's approach to the show's overabundance of plot... for the most part, Lapine's cast handles the story and songs with style. Vanessa Williams makes a gorgeous, diva-like Witch, who gets to change from an ugly old hag into what looks look a fourth member of the Supremes... More problematic are the Baker and his Wife, played by a subdued Stephen DeRosa and Kerry O'Malley, who, while vocally strong, lacks the sardonic awareness Joanna Gleason brought to the original. It's their tale that should anchor the evening, and it never quite does. But then there is almost as much plot as there are trees in this musical. And that's ultimately the problem. It's a show that can find its way Into the Woods but has a much harder time getting out of them." - Michael Kuchwara, The Associated Press

"Yes, the set designed by Douglas W. Schmidt is breathtaking, placing the characters and viewers in a whimsical world of lush forests and picturesque storybooks. And Gregory Meeh's effects alternately wink and dazzle, mirroring the production's mix of campy humor and heart. But the text, music and performances are ultimately what make these Woods captivating. Though it doesn't boast one of Sondheim's better scores, the musical features such highlights as the lovely No One Is Alone and the wicked Agony duets sung by the romantically challenged princes. Lapine, who directs here, ensures that these numbers and his droll dialogue retain their luster and bite. The cast handles this material with a playful energy." - Elysa Gardner, USA Today

"The production, directed again by Lapine, has not been deconstructed or radically transformed from the memorable one that won Tony Awards for Sondheim's jaunty, gorgeous and witty score and Lapine's dark, wise and adorable book. The designs and cast are new - most famously, Vanessa Williams as an irresistible witch we trusted would forever be Bernadette Peters. Some brainstorms are louder - most conspicuously, the changing of the cow, Milky White, from a cardboard with handles to a tragicomic bovine, a man in a bony cow puppet, with a lovely, melancholy disposition and just the slightest tendency to milk beyond his scenes. And, though some may find an extra jolt of pertinence in the story of vulnerability and resilience, the show is both timely and timeless, deeply playful and unpretentiously profound." - Linda Winer, Newsday

Spoiler Warning: Those who have not seen Into the Woods before are advised to skip this next section as story content may be revealed...

This revival is the product of some modifications since its first appearance on Broadway. Though Lapine has stated that it's "not a radical overhaul," some of these modifications include:

  • Minor orchestration and book changes.

  • New lyrical sequence added in "Last Midnight"

  • The song "Our Little World" has been added.

  • The show begins with three oversized books with the titles ("Cinderella," "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "The Baker and His Wife") which turn to reveal their inhabitants. There is a show curtain with gold embossed fairy tale books dropped at intermission.

  • Rapunzels tower is made out of the spine of a book similar to the other sets of books. The Witch climbs spine to be with Rapunzel at the end of "Our Little World."

  • The set is series of tree sections reaching into the flyspace. They rearrange and get replaced by more threatening and twisted trees as the show progresses. There are curtains of green leaves in the first act, gone by the second.

  • The Narrator creates much of the action himself, as opposed to staying to the side.

  • The cow, Milky White, is played by an actor

  • Much more dance choreography.

  • Cinderella's birds are puppets carried by the narrator.

  • Cinderella's Mother is displayed by video projection.

  • There are two wolves. "Hello Little Girl" is now a duet.

  • Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are gone.

  • The three little pigs are in.

  • Little Red is less hoolligan and more bratty/selfish.

  • The Giant is a projected silhouette on the woods.

  • Judi Dench is the voice of the Giant.

  • The Baker and company climb up and into the then badly damaged Rapunzel "tower" to slay the giant.

  • The company join hands at the foot of the stage for "Children Will Listen"

  • In the first act, when Jack's mother tells him "someday you'll have a real pet", Jack answers "a monkey?" instead of "a piggy?"

  • In the second midnight, as the narrator introduces Cinderella, he refers to her as "now slightly tipsy..."

  • In the second act, when The Baker and His Wife are arguing about searching for Jack, The Baker wins the argument, and His Wife stays with Little Red. Jack runs by calling for Milky White and The Baker's Wife runs off to try to catch him.

  • When The Baker comes upon Cinderella at her mother's grave, they have added "but dirty" to his line so it now reads "You look like the princess but dirty. You ARE the princess but dirty."

  • It is now Cinderella who comes up with the idea to smear pitch to trap the giant instead of The Baker.

The rest of this revival cast includes John McMartin (The Visit in Chicago) as the Narrator and Mysterious Man, Laura Benanti (Swing) as Cinderella, Gregg Edelman (Reefer Madness) as her Prince, Dennis Kelly as her father, Christopher Sieber (Triumph of Love) as Rapunzel's Prince, and Melissa Dye as Rapunzel.

Kerry O'Malley plays the Baker's Wife, Stephen DeRosa (The Mystery of Irma Vep) as the Baker, Adam Wylie (TV's "Picket Fences") as Jack, Mary Louise Burke (Fuddy Meers) as Jack's Mother, and Molly V. Ephraim as as Little Red Riding Hood.

Trent Armand Kendall plays the Steward, Pamela Myers as Cinderella's Stepmother, Tracy Nicole Chapman as Florinda, Amanda Naughton as Lucinda. The ensemble cast includes Stephen Berger, Jennifer Malenke, Kate Reinders, Linda Muggleston Adam Brazier.

Join the readers discussing their thoughts in our forum, Finishing the Chat! ››



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