Top positive review
You've changed. You're daring. You're different in the woods.
on March 5, 2015
I was first introduced to Into the Woods by a local high school drama production and I immediately became fascinated. I discovered a filmed Broadway version (in full, for free) on You Tube. It was wonderful. Bernadette Peters is fabulous. There is really none like her. I admit to being more than a little disappointed by the new film version and while I adore Meryl Streep she doesn't come close to Bernadette Peters. The power in her voice is incredible. The rest of the cast is simply wonderful and they pull off this quirky musical perfectly. I doubt I'm alone in saying that Agony (both versions) are my favourite songs in this, the princes are the perfect comedy relief, I actually wish there was a bit more of their rivalry in the play but it's a long one so I guess they can only do so much. This musical explores relationships between parents and children, couples, the desire for independence as children grow and their psychological and sexual maturity, loss as well as wish fulfillment. On the surface, this seems like silly twist on fairy tales but underneath is some pretty heavy subject matter and that's what drew me so strongly to this musical.
I saw a few negative reviews on here from people who had bought the album without ever seeing the production. I'm not sure that's wise and I'd strongly suggest seeking out the filmed version, you can buy it here on Amazon or watch it, in full, for free, on You Tube. I recommend it over the new Disney film because they changed the story around and the musical loses much of its impact because of that.
I mentioned Bernadette Peters but I must also mention Tony winner Joanna Gleason who is simply phenomenal as the Baker's Wife. Danielle Ferland is great as Little Red Riding Hood. The princes are played by Chuck Wagner and Robert Westenberg as Rapunzel and Cinderella's princes respectively with all the pomposity of princes who were raised to be nothing but charming. Westenberg also doubles as the Wolf. Chip Zien is the Baker, Ben Wright is Jack and Kim Crosby is Cinderella. Tom Aldredge is the narrator (and the strange man in the woods) and you will hear his voice throughout the musical as he guides the viewer through the story. Act 1 is fairly light hearted and humorous (if you discount Little Red Riding Hood and what happens to her, there's nothing funny about that). Act 2 is much darker. A lot of people don't care for Act 2. My feeling is that because Act 2 shines a light on the ugliness of human behaviour, because it is sad and full of loss, that people tend to be turned off by it. They want the happy endings that don't exist here. It absolutely doesn't fall flat, as some suggest, but it does take on a much darker tone as the characters struggle with the differences between right and wrong (and the most important notion, that one person's right is someone else's wrong) and loss, both loss of relationships but also loss through death as the lyric says, "Sometimes people leave us, halfway through the woods" (this part gets me crying every time). Most of my favourite songs are actually in Act 2, "Lament", "Last Midnight" and "No One Is Alone" along with humorous second version of "Agony".
I highly recommend this musical but approach it with an open mind as it's a little different from the other musicals out there. That is part of its charm if you're open to it.
Since I didn't see it listed on the product itself, here's a track listing:
1. Prologue: Into The Woods - Cast
2. Cinderella At The Grave - Kim Crosby, Merle Louise
3. Hello, Little Girl - Danielle Ferland, Robert Westenberg
4. I Guess This Is Goodbye / Maybe They're Magic - Joanna Gleason, Ben Wright, Chip Zien
5. I Know Things Now - Danielle Ferland
6. A Very Nice Prince / First Midnight / Giants In The Sky - Kim Crosby, Joanna Gleason, Ben Wright
7. Agony - Chuck Wagner, Robert Westenberg
8. It Takes Two - Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien
9. Stay With Me - Bernadette Peters, Pamela Winslow
10. On The Steps Of The Palace - Kim Crosby
11. Ever After - Tom Aldredge
12. Act 2. Prologue: So Happy - Tom Aldredge
13. Agony II - Chuck Wagner, Robert Westenberg
14. Lament - Bernadette Peters
15. Any Moment / Moments in the Woods - Joanna Gleason, Robert Westenberg
16. Your Fault / Last Midnight - Kim Crosby, Danielle Ferland, Bernadette Peters, Ben Wright, Chip Zien
17. No More - Tom Aldredge, Chip Zien
18. No One Is Alone - Kim Crosby, Danielle Ferland, Ben Wright, Chip Zien
19. Finale: Children Will Listen - Bernadette Peters