I enjoyed so much seeing the Center Stage production of Into the Woods, I've seen it 3 and 1/2 times (theater aficionados will understand).
Into the Woods is a co-production with The Westport Country Playhouse whose Artistic Director, Mark Lamos is in the director's role and he has performed admirably. Lamos also directed the wonderful Center Stage presentation of Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Hopefully, he can return for another dose of Sondheim.
I had the pleasure of seeing the original Broadway cast which was nominated for nine Tony Awards in 1988 and won three: Joanna Gleason (Best Actress in a Musical), James Lapine (Best Book), and Stephen Sondheim (Best Score). The Phantom of the Opera won the Tony for Best Musical that year.
Sondheim and Lapine combine the tales of Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack (the Beanstalk Jack), and Rapunzel (of the tower fame). Added to this cast of characters is a a childless Baker and his wife and a witch who places a spell on the Baker and his wife (for stealing from her vegetable garden) that results in their inability to have a child. The curse can be reversed if the Baker and his wife follow explicit instructions from the witch who is responsible for the Baker and his wife being childless. The witch informs the Baker that if and his wife want the curse reversed, they are to "Go to the wood and bring me back One: the cow as white as milk, Two: the cape as red as blood, Three: the hair as yellow as corn, Four: the slipper as pure as gold". They are given three nights to achieve their goal. (similar to the television hit series "Amazing Race".)
In the CD booklet of the Original Broadway Cast Recording, Sheryl Flatow sums up the musical this way: "...most fairy tales present right and wrong in childlike terms of black and white. Sondheim and Lapine serve up a cautionary tale in various shades of grey: witches tell the truth, nice people lie, good people die. Yet the characters' deeds and misdeeds bring them together, until they coalesce into an interdependent community and work in concert to slay a Giant who threatens their very existance. The message is clear: only by bonding together can we conquer teh giants who cast their shadows over own society." Remember...it takes a village...
In the original production, Danielle Ferland played the role of "Little Red Ridinghood". She's now grown up and is playing the role of "The Baker's Wife".
Playing the baker is the wonderful Eric Liberman who brings such emotion to his character. The ensemble is universally talented including Justin Scott Brown (Jack), Jenny Latimer (Cinderella),Cheryl Stern (Jack's mother) and Nik Walker who plays the Wolf and Cinderella's Prince.
Lauren Kennedy nails her role as the Witch.
Playing the Narrator is Jeffry Denman who very artfully coordinates the action.
But it is petite Dana Steingold who steals the show in the role of "Little Red Ridinghood". It's an unforgettable performance. Whenever she is on stage, you can't take your eyes off of her. She's ready for Prime Time!
Adding to the enjoyment is the 7 piece orchestra under the baton of Wayne Barker.
Lamos pits the action as if it took place in a doll house. There's even an actual doll house stage left. One actor actually leaps out of a "jack in the box". In charge of these "dolls" is the narrator.