Well, I can’t say I hated “Into the Woods” as much as the NY Times did. I think the boy narrator absolutely worked in Act I, most of the score was sung effectively and, especially last night, seeing it in Central Park added a layer of enjoyment this production wouldn’t have achieved inside a Broadway house.
The set was a thing of beauty, with the actors only occasionally out of breath from running up and down the four tiers, and there were bits of inspired stagecraft (the Giant’s first appearance, which made my sister gasp; The Witch’s disappearance after “Last Midnight”). Sarah Stiles made for a delightful Little Red Ridinghood. Best of all, last night’s weather become almost another character, with clear skies for the cheery first act and then clouds and brief moments of thunder and lightning for the darker second half.
But still. No one aside from Stiles was able to erase the memory of the original performances, though Kristine Zbornik was a hoot as Jack’s Mother. Amy Adams doesn’t have the gravitas to pull off The Baker’s Wife; here’s a character who defies her husband to troll through the woods with witches and wolves for three days on her quest for a child, and Adams seemed more like a New Yorker who threw on some old clothes to head down to the corner to satisfy late-night munchies. There was no urgency. Denis O’Hare, meanwhile, is just too old for The Baker, which might not have been a problem had he not acted too old. He behaved like a grumpy grandpa most of the time. In addition, he can’t sing the score and, worst of all, he and Adams had zero chemistry.
Jessie Mueller sang Cinderella well, but the character was lost in this production for reasons I still can’t fathom. But every time she appeared on stage, I thought, “Oh, yeah, Cinderella’s in this.”
I’ve never been a huge fan of Donna Murphy, and while I thought she nailed The Witch in the first act, she seemed to drop away in the second. Her flimsy costume didn’t help matters. The Witch becomes the conscience of Act II about 20 minutes in, but it’s hard to take her self-righteous hectoring seriously while she’s wearing a green slip. And “Last Midnight” only landed because of the stage business at the end.
These problems would probably be fatal in a regular production, but the outdoor setting was magic. And, since most people will see this for free, it’s hard to quibble.