REVIEW: “Into the Woods” continues to work its magical spell

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

I’m by no means an expert on musical theater but those I like I tend to see multiple times (the same is true of certain books and movies, and I’ve seen most M*A*S*H episodes enough times to be able to double the soundtracks). Some of the reasons are pure enjoyment but I also find that multiple viewings allows me to experience different levels of thinking inherent in whatever it is that I’m viewing.

Thus I saw Into the Woods Saturday for the third time. I first experienced it during its original Broadway run in New York City and then saw it again at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles a few years later. It’s back at the Ahmanson again, but this version by the wonderfully named Fiasco Productions is quite different from the original and light years away from the 2014 Disney movie.

Five things I think I think (with apologies to Peter King of, who runs “10 Things I Think I Think” in his weekly “Monday Morning QB” column …)

1. The play, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the book by James Lapine, continues to be as fresh and thought provoking as when it first opened. The mashup idea (merging several familiar fairy tales with one, the Baker and his wife, invented by Lapine) was a stroke of genius.
2. The concept of Act I being “they lived happily ever after” and Act II being the consequences of the characters’ actions was particularly effective in this rendition (although that might have resulted from my multiple viewings). The shift is stark enough that one of the characters reminded the audience before the performance began to be sure to come back for the second act.
3. The Fiasco Productions concept was highly inventive, with many of the 11 performers playing multiple parts and several also playing different instruments throughout the performance.
4. The cast was uniformly exuberant and strong. Darick Pead earned the biggest laughs for his portrayal of Milky White and Evan Rees gets special plaudits for his work on the piano (which is onstage during the production).
5. I was amazed at how many young children were in the audience Saturday afternoon. I’m not sure this is really a work for young children (teenagers, yes) but it’s great for them to at least be exposed to a major musical theater work in such an excellent production.

Into the Woods runs through May 14 at the Ahmanson. Information HERE.
• You may be able to find discounted tickets through Goldstar HERE.
• The Ahmanson is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Temple St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station, walk north to Temple and then and walk up two blocks to reach the hall.

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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