Last night I felt transformed after attending The Public Theatre’s current production of Into the Woods. While I initially thought waiting 7 hours in line for the free ticket was a lot, I can tell you I’d wait a full 24 hours in the baking sun to see it again for the first time.
So I am pretty sure I know what most people want to know about. Amy Adams. Let’s get this out of the way right now. Ms. Adams is very good in the production. Her voice is strong, she is expressive, and although her portrayal is different from Joanna Gleason’s Tony Award winning performance of the same role, Ms. Adam’s is certainly able to hold her own with the cavalcade of talent that is on that stage. This is no small accomplishment, and there are other actors in the show who do not fare quite as well as Ms. Adams so I commend her on her performance. I was skeptical when I entered, but left impressed.
As an actor who has rehearsed and performed in the show, I felt certain I would, at best, be treated to a highly competent production of it, and never felt anything could come close to the video recording made many years ago. Yet, I could not have been more wrong.
The directors Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel were clearly aware that Into the Woods is a modern masterpiece, and therefore understood that to mount a successful production extreme care must be taken. You must keep in mind that fans of the show, are going to want to see what made them fall in love with it in the first place. At the same time, fans are not interested in watching a production which attempts to copy the source material. Even the great Donna Murphy would look bad if she attempted to portray the witch the way Bernadette Peters had so many years ago. Therefore the directors needed to reimagine the show in a way that allowed them, and the actors, to breathe new life into the show, without changing the show to the point that it lost the intrinsic magic that captured the hearts of everyone so many years ago.
I am happy to report that have done so, and done it with such elegance and brilliance, that I was reduced to tears (and in some cases sobs) multiple times throughout the evening. Most of my tears were out of sheer wonder, as the production is at times so beautiful that one cannot be blamed for weeping. Other times, it was a single actor who unlocked a certain truth in a phrase I’d heard hundreds of times, or possibly even sang dozens of times.
I will say that three actors deserve extra special mention. Gideon Glick’s showed such commitment in his portrayal of Jack that I heard “Giant’s in the Sky” with new ears. Just thinking of those few moments on stage still get me choked up. On the other end of that spectrum is Sarah Stiles, who somehow found a way to add even more humor to the already hilarious role of Little Red Riding Hood. Yet she still somehow managed to make “I know Things Now” and “No One Is Alone” emotionally resonant.
Finally there is Donna Murphy who had the seemingly impossible task of reinventing the part of the Witch. Thanks to the clever reimagined staging, Donna Murphy was able to shine new light on the role instead of being swallowed up by the shadow of Bernadette Peters. Murphy’s version of the witch is not without humor, but she seemed more interested in engaging the audience with the harsh realities of life than getting laughs. That said, she is still very funny, but when it comes to “The Last Midnight” the groundwork she laid from her first entrance paid off in an eleven o’clock number that somehow managed to be chilling thrilling, probing, and entertaining all at once. I knew that song was fun and fantastic, but until last night I never knew it had such power. Mrs. Murphy is glorious in the role, to say anything more would be a waste of time.
For those who are going to see this production, and honestly I believe that this is worth flying to New York City to see, this is all I want to write to you. To say anything else would truly ruin the many splendors of the production, and I would be truly evil to ruin the incredible magic that is involved in this production. I will post a more spoilery review later though because honestly, I feel the need to gush.