‘Into the Woods’ Original Cast Reunion at Brooklyn Academy of Music – Review

By Jonathan Spira on 22 June 2015
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In at least one case, “once upon a time” is twenty-eight years later.  That’s when much of the original cast of a show based in part on children’s fairy tales joined the show’s creators, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The show, “Into the Woods,” takes themes and characters from the familiar fairy tales of “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Rapunzel” and adds an original story about a childless baker and his wife.  It opened on Broadway on November 5, 1987 and won three Tony Awards that season for Best Book, Best Score, and Best Actress in a Musical.  A somewhat stripped-down off-Broadway revival is currently at the Roundabout Theatre Company and a film adaptation was released in 2014.

With television correspondent and humorist Mo Rocca serving as moderator, the original cast members on stage included Bernadette Peters, who played the witch; Joanna Gleason, who won a Tony for playing the Baker’s Wife; Chip Zien, as the Baker; Robert Westenberg, who portrayed the Wolf and the Prince; Kim Corsby, as Cinderella; Danielle Ferland, who had the part of Little Red Riding Hood; and Ben Wright, who played Jack.

Curtain call for the "Into the Woods" original cast on Sunday

Curtain call for the “Into the Woods” original cast on Sunday

The discussion about the show was interspersed with dialogue and songs from the show, with the initial discussion between Messrs. Sondheim and Lapine focusing on what brought the show about, something few theatergoers would have heard about.

Sondheim said he had long wanted to write “a quest musical,” citing “The Wizard of Oz” as an example, and he and Lapine were looking for something to do together following their great success with “Sunday in the Park with George.”  The pair – the reunion audience is told – tried to pitch television producer Norman Lear on the idea of a musical special gathering various sitcom characters (think Lucy and Ricky from “I Love Lucy”) in a hospital setting (think “Dr. Kildare”) being treated for various emergencies.  Lear asked for a script but Sondheim and Lapine were only interested in being paid for the idea and declined to go further with the project.

While the sitcom musical idea failed, it led the two to the mash-up that became “Into the Woods,” a tale that explores love, mortality, and regret through the lives of the fairy-tale characters.

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