Encores' Into the Woods Fulfills Every Wish
|Into the Woods cast, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
Every once in a blue moon, a performance is so wonderful that the entire evening is an exchange of joy and love between the audience and the performers. In my lifetime of theater-going, I can count the times this happened on the fingers of one hand. Last night was one of those times. The sold-out two-week Encores! production of Into the Woods fulfilled every wish anyone could have had for this musical.
|Harada, Thompson, and the amazing puppet Milky White|
There was not a single weak link among the cast. Neil Patrick-Harris and Sara Bareilles anchored the show with their funny, earthy, and ultimately tragic Baker and Baker's Wife. Anyone who saw Sara Bareilles' Jenna in Waitress will not be surprised that in addition to having a beautiful singing voice, she brought and earthy humor and charm to the Baker's Wife. Just the way she ordered Little Red Riding Hood to put down her knife cracked me up. NPH conveyed all of the Baker's desperation and essential decency.
|Lester and Creel, photo @ Joan Marcus|
The roles of Cinderella (Denee Benton) and Rapunzel (Shereen Pimentel) are slightly less meaty, but both ladies brought sweet soprano voices and winning personalities. Jason Forbach was a last-minute step-in as Rapunzel's Prince but he was wonderful.
|Bareilles and Creel, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
The musical is extremely funny, and (unlike Prince Charming) it's charming and sincere. The only sad part of the evening was thinking how much Stephen Sondheim would have enjoyed watching this production. That, and the fact that the applause was so loud that Cinderella's final line of "I wish" was drowned out by noise.