Stephen Sondheim's Tony-winning score favors intricate ensemble numbers that present the characters' divergent, then overlapping fears and desires. And it's the latter category that provides a primary thread to James Lapine's ingenious puzzle of a book, which coheres around the inevitability--and treachery--of our innermost wishes. That theme is given farcical energy in the first act, which offers enough comic invention, tart dialogue, and witty music for a satisfying evening of theater as is.
Instead, Sondheim and Lapine offer a bold, darker second act that takes a look at what happens after "happily ever after," elevating the work beyond inspired parody toward allegorical gravity. By the final scenes, with the one-two punch of the score's two most enduring songs, "No One Is Alone" and "Children Will Listen," what began as a clever diversion has touched deeper nerves and primed some tear ducts. This video production by the original Broadway cast gets its marquee shimmer from Bernadette Peters's wonderful witch, but the standout (and Tony winner as Best Actress) is Joanna Gleason, who gives the Baker's Wife a mixture of warmth, pragmatism, and sudden, poignantly romantic radiance.
The DVD version is comparatively no-frills, given its American Playhouse origins, but multiformat digital audio renders the musical performances in immaculate detail. --Sam Sutherland
When "Into the Woods" first opened on Broadway in 1987, it was greeted with great anticipation. After all, this was to be the newest Sondheim show... and it was starring Bernadette Peters. The show became an instant classic as audiences loved the show.
The plot revolves around the Baker and his Wife, who want to have a child, but due to a witches's curse, cannot. They have to find "a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold" in order to reerse the curse. On the way, they encounter many characters from well-known tales, like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giant Killer and Rapunzel. However, the second act involves many dark and twisted twists, as we journey onto what happenes after "happily ever after". The plot becomes much less joyous as in the second act...MUCH less happy. The show is magnificent on the outside, with its' intricate yet followable plot and Sondheim's masterful songs. One of the most interesting things about this musical, however, is the metaphor that extends throughout. (I'll let you figure it out yourself).
The score includes oft-recorded songs such as "Children Will Listen" and "No One is Alone". ALL of the songs are great though. From the mournful "No More" to hysterical "Agony" you will savor every moment.
The cast, including Chip Zein, Joanna Gleason and Bernadette Peters, are inmaculate. Their interpretations are dead on, with beutiful renditions of every song. Especially Gleason and Peters.
The show won the 1988 Tony's for BEST SCORE, BEST BOOK and BEST ACTRESS (Joanna Gleason who was incredible as the Baker's wife).
Buy this magnificent Sondheim show and dive into the world of Sondheim.
*****Two Notes: 1) If you would like a more complete sample of Stephen Sondheim, buy the "Stephen Sondheim Collection" on Amazon.com. It includes 6 DVD's: "Into the Woods", "Passion", "Sunday in the Park with George", Concert of "Sweeney Todd", Concert of "Follies" (both of these concerts are incredible), and the once-in-a-lifetime event "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall".
2) If you buy the cast recording for "into the Woods", buy the one with this ORIGINAL CAST!! Do not buy the one from the recent revival cast, though they were great, they do not even compare with the original.
INTO THE WOODS is such a great show. The first act is hilarious and witty. It very smartly weaves together all those fairy tales so familiar to us all. Then act two makes us look at them through adult eyes. I think Sondheim and Lapine are telling us that in fairy tales as well as "real" life, the simple words "I wish..." are truly the beginning of whatever story each of us is about to tell. They counsel us to be careful of what we wish in life -- our wishes effect everyone.
My favorite song in this production is "The Last Midnight" which is performed by Bernadette Peters as the Witch. It is very macabre and Sondheim reveals so much about the Witch's character through the lyrics. Plus, it gives Ms. Peters an opportunity to belt!
INTO THE WOODS is a hoot! Enjoy it.
Anyhoo, I saw this musical in high school (let me rephrase: I saw this video in high school...oh wait, I forgot. Read more