By Joan Wingert
I attended the Feb. 20 performance, and it is with great enthusiasm that I give the entire cast and crew of Into the Woods a hearty thumbs-up.
I have been a complete fan of this musical/morality play since I first viewed (and since memorized) the PBS version starring Bernadette Peters et al, and I have taught the songs to my voice students over the years. So I knew what I was about to see, and had no less than Broadway as my measuring stick.
I was captivated from start to finish–in a story, not a theater, for a terrific two and a half hours.
Since others in previous Into the Woods reviews have given a brief synopsis, I’ll not do so here. As to the specifics:
- The set was a marvel, deceptively simple and minimal, allowing for all the multilevel action that’s demanded by the storylines without overwhelming the space.
- The actors’ character portrayals in speech and song were comic yet profound in Act I, and very moving in Act II–even in the moments of comic relief (I especially loved the blind sister who unwittingly was singing to the tree in the last scene). I rarely saw actors, only well-defined characters in whom I recognized my own gullibility and failings. I thought I had my favorites among the cast, yet every time I tried to specify a name/character here, I find myself wanting to name everyone. Kudos to all the cast for achieving such a strong and interdependent ensemble.
- The pacing, the movement, the spinning out of this interweaving of fairy tales was superb.
- The orchestra was yet another, though invisible character, creating mood, and sound effects. The fact that I was mostly unaware of their skills during the songs and between is a testament to the balance they struck with those onstage.
- The puppetry won me over. When I first saw the cow and its “handler,” I didn’t know if I could make friends with the concept, but it became a source of delight in the story and appreciation of the skill it took to make it seamless.
- Finally a word about the choice of narrator. A young narrator who shapes each tale as it progresses sets a completely different, and very interesting, tone. It also gives a new and unsettling edge to the narrator’s fate. Thanks for giving me some new things to chew on.
Again, please forgive my refraining from naming names. Each of you are richly deserving. It will have to suffice that I told you so in the receiving line.
Joan Wingert is a central Minnesota choral music director and liturgist. She offers private music lessons from her home and has directed several community theater productions in rural central Minnesota.