By: Patrick Christiano
The acclaimed Tony Award-winning musical "Into The Woods" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is being presented in a pleasantly stripped down production for the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theater. The timeless classic about what is on the other side of the fairy tale dazzles with just 11 wildly theatrical actors playing all the roles, doing narration and also playing musical instruments along with the lone piano. The songs like "Children Will Listen" and "Giants in the Sky" are driven with boundless imagination.
In the production’s collegiate frat style approach you get the feeling the actors wouldn’t normally be playing these roles, and while often witty and theatrical, part of the sophomoric approach humor put the jokes outside the material. This re-invention of the tale about the power of wishes is like nothing you’ve have ever seen.
As the curtain rises, the entire company assembles around the piano, setting the tone for the enchanting musical whose happy endings of the first act, to no one’s surprise at this point, come tumbling down in the second act. The creative staging, however, gives us the many memorable musical numbers, including emotional songs like "Moments in the Woods," "No One Is Alone," and "Last Midnight."
The outstanding cast includes the original McCarter Theatre Center/Fiasco Theater cast juggling their duties and roles under the ingenious direction of Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld.
Jessie Austrain as the childless "Baker’s Wife " brings desperation to a new level. Noah Brody infuses all of his characters with magnetism and charm . Andy Grotelueschen is a standout squeezing every last laugh out of the hysterical "Milky White ," while Liz Hayes makes for a wonderfully convincing "Cinderella’s Stepmother and a caring determined force as Jack’s Mother."
Others in the wonderful cast taking on multiple roles and coming off well include Claire Karpen, a nifty Cinderella and Granny switch. Jennifer Mudge is a very convincing tenacious Witch." Patrick Mulryan soars with his naive rendition as "Jack and Steward." Ben Steinfeld does nice work as the childless Baker. Emily Young is rollicking as the young "Little Red Riding Hood and perfectly distraught as Rapunzel. Pianist Matt Castle is the tuner.
Into The Woods remains a magical treat for all ages. "Be Careful What You Wish For"? Well my yearning would be that this marvelous adaptation stays around awhile for fans of the musical to see this inventive small downed sized staging that gives force and simplicity to the musical’s rather distressing conclusion.
Now even if the moral of this story is that we all have to grow up sometime, and happy ever after is just a myth, there is a part of all of us that says, " No!" Peter Pan still lives on in all of us from time to time.
Into The Woods is now playing at: The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre The Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street, New York, NY, 10036 Ticket Services: 212.719.1300 or www.roundabouttheatre.org Running Time: 2 Hours and 40 Minutes, including intermission Though April 12, 2015 Photos: Joan Marcus