THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

The Fiasco Theater\'s&nbsp;<em>Into the Woods</em>&nbsp;

Review: Into the Woods | AT&T Performing Arts Center | Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House


All the Woods a Stage

The Fiasco Theater's bare-bones production of Into the Woods, now at the AT&T Performing Arts, proves the staying power of the show's music and storytelling.



published Thursday, May 18, 2017

Photo: Joan Marcus
Laurie Veldheer as Cinderella and Anthony Chatmon II as Cinderella's Prince and the company of Into the Woods

 

Dallas — Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, one of the masterpieces of American music and American theater, took the stage at Winspear Opera House Tuesday night in a powerful and unique version that delivers, in a defiantly non-glamorous staging, all the power and punch of this parable of what it means to be human.

The test of time has been more than kind to this humorous, occasionally cynical, ultimately life-affirming retelling of traditional fairy tales; its successful run on Broadway in 1987, starring Bernadette Peters, was followed by the inevitable national tour, a major West End production, decades on the community and college theater circuit (with an abridged, kid-friendly version for elementary and middle school productions), a version by Britain’s Royal Opera House, and, to verify its iconic status, the star-crowded movie version of 2014 starring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.

So, what do you with a musical that has become a monument? This touring version of the off-Broadway production of 2015, originally staged by Fiasco Theater, strips the cast down to 10 singing actors, several of whom take on multiple roles. (This becomes particularly intriguing and hilarious when Anthony Chatmon II portrays Cinderella’s Prince and one of the evil stepsisters at exactly the same moment).

Photo: Joan Marcus
The Fiasco Theater's Into the Woods 

The hardy band of theatrical virtuosos also provide the onstage orchestra of guitar, banjo, cello, bassoon, horn, trumpet, and percussion, albeit with the bulk of the instrumental responsibility beautifully supplied by pianist Evan Rees, who essentially conducts the performance from his position at the center of the action onstage. (Indeed, the relative quality of the instrumental performances provides an essential element: the cellist provides a suavely superb reading, while the trumpeter turns in a hilariously awful rendition.)

Hearing this music live again reminds that Sondheim is much more than just a great songwriter: the score of Into the Woods is brilliant by any standard of pop, classical, or Broadway music. Putting on my classical music critic/musicologist cap, I’ll observe that Into the Woods easily analyses as a set of multiple intertwined variations on a small group of main themes, This pretty fancy compositional technique results in an emotionally powerful tapestry in which the foreshadowing and return of musical motifs and melodies creates an unfailingly powerful momentum. Reorchestrated by Frank Galgano and Matt Castle for piano with occasional decoration by the other instruments, this already marvelous score takes on the pungent sophistication of post-Ellington 20th-century jazz.

Within this arching genius, the score glows with jewels. Anyone who has lost innocence on his or her own journey into the woods can hardly fail to identify with Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now,” or Jack’s “Giants in the Sky”; anyone who has been guided, unwillingly, into an “ideal” match can understand Cinderella’s guardedly unenthusiastic “He’s a Very Nice Prince.” The Prologue to Act II insists that everyone is unbearably happy, when no one really is; the penultimate ensemble number, “No One is Alone” (an addition to the show during its pre-Broadway tryouts thirty years ago) provides a first-rate Broadway anthem and heart-tugger.

Dramatically, Into the Woods reminds that the stock characters we have known since childhood—Cinderella, Jack (of the Beanstalk), Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood—embody universal human characteristics, both good and bad. Lapine and Sondheim beckon us to see these characters and outcomes in a larger context: Rapunzel’s witch is a controlling mother, driven by her own insecurities; Cinderella’s Prince has a roving eye, and Cinderella ultimately wants something between her unhappy childhood as a kitchen slave and living in a Palace. Red Riding Hood is one tough, adventurous gal, wizened by experience and ready to take on any wolf who comes h her way; ironically, half-witted fetishist Jack, ready to fall in love with a cow, a harp, or any handy non-human object, becomes a giant killer and unwitting hero.

Interestingly, this production, like the movie version, dispenses with the Narrator of the original, dividing the narrating function among all the actors. Although this eliminates the pivotal moment at which the key characters chose to rid themselves of the smug expectations the Narrator represents, the point of transformation and liberation emerges intact.

The 10 cast members perform with unfailing energy, spot-on timing, and musicality. Darick Pead brings scene-stealing hyperactivity to the characters of the Cow and Rapunzel’s Prince; Chatmon, in addition to his roles as an evil stepsister and Cinderella’s Prince, makes the most of his delightfully predatory, entendre-heavy moment as the Wolf. Vanessa Reseland follows the footsteps of Peters and Streep to bring commanding presence and voice as the Witch, and Alanna Saunders, who is also Rapunzel, shines as Little Red Riding Hood.

Under the surefire direction of Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, with choreography by Lisa Shriver, these characters bound across a set decorated with a ladder, tables and chairs, and an upright piano against a backdrop of ropes, with the steel frames of grand pianos haphazardly stacked on either side of the stage. The only failure of this production is a matter of its placement in Winspear Opera House: the sheer intimacy of the production falters in this large venue, with 20-30 percent of the text, particularly in the fast-moving moments of the first act, disappearing into a space designed for the opulence of grand opera—one of the pitfalls of an intimate production in Broadway touring houses.

 

» Read our interview with Patrick Mulryan, who plays Jack

» Don’t forget, Industry Night for Into the Woods is Tuesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for grand terrace or dress circle, or $60 for orchestra, terrace or mezzanine. Join us for a post-show party with members of the cast, and come dressed as your favorite fairy tale character for our costume contest.

Click here to purchase tickets to Into the Woods Industry Night Thanks For Reading





Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
All the Woods a Stage
The Fiasco Theater's bare-bones production of Into the Woods, now at the AT&T Performing Arts, proves the staying power of the show's music and storytelling.
by Wayne Lee Gay

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit