Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying?

The tour of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods officially opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC earlier this year.

By: Mar. 29, 2023
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Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying?

The tour of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods officially opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC!

The complete cast of Into the Woods - many coming direct from the Broadway production - includes Montego Glover as The Witch, Stephanie J. Block as The Baker's Wife, Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker, Gavin Creel as Cinderella's Prince/Wolf, Cole Thompson as Jack, Katy Geraghty as Little Red Ridinghood, Diane Phelan as Cinderella, Nancy Opel as Cinderella's Stepmother, Jason Forbach as Rapunzel's Prince, Aymee Garcia as Jack's Mother, Rayanne Gonzales as Jack's Mother (DC only), David Patrick Kelly as The Narrator, Josh Breckenridge as Cinderella's Father, Felicia Curry as Cinderella's Mother/Grandmother/Giant's Wife, Ta'Nika Gibson as Lucinda, Brooke Ishibashi as Florinda, Kennedy Kanagawa as Milky White, Jim Stanek as the Steward, and Alysia Velez as Rapunzel with Erica DurhamEllie FishmanMarya GrandyPaul KreppelEddie LopezXimone Rose, and Sam Simahk as understudies.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Mary Lincer, BroadwayWorld: In the first act of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1987 musical Into the Woods, numerous characters from familiar fairy tales go through the familiar events of their tales with a narrator (in this production, the energetic David Patrick Kelly) narrating and a with a few interpolated characters along for the ride. In act two, all the familiar happy endings go south, and the characters must actually figure out to to team up and learn how to live in the real world with its uncertainties, unpredictabilities, and mixtures of joy and sorrow. This touring revival, which recently left Broadway, runs about 2¾ hours, but time flies. The genius of the show is the turning of each character inside out and the seeing of how they tick, what they choose, why they act, and how they feel. Sondheim's songs reveal nearly everything a sentient being can come up with, and Lapine's book completes him. The singer-actors in this production do both creators proud.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Peter Marks, The Washington Post: DeBessonet's approach suits the musical’s prescriptions so well, because the concert format strips away many of the usual embellishments. The story is all. David Rockwell’s ingenious set plants the 17-member orchestra, conducted by John Bell, in the middle of the woods, with birch trees descending from the heavens as the characters embark on their forest quests. Tyler Micoleau illuminates the backstage wall in ethereal ombré hues of pinks and greens, and Andrea Hood’s amusing costumes walk a runway existing somewhere between chic and Grimm.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Emily Wyrwa, The Daily Free Press: Unfortunately, Block’s performance seemed to be the exception rather than the rule in this production. Despite director Lear deBessonet’s stripped-back production that aimed to make the show feel less mystical and more human, the show felt more intellectually stimulating than emotional.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Samantha H. Chung, The Harvard Crimson: The entire cast is excellent, each actor bringing a fresh and sincere take on their role. Montego Glover (“Witch”) and Stephanie J. Block (“Baker’s Wife”) are standouts in their respective roles. Glover exudes presence every time she steps onstage; she revels in her villainous power, yet her conflicting goals and human desires still show through. Block, a well-known performer in the theater industry, shines both on her own and alongside her real-life husband Sebastian Arcelus, who plays the Baker. They inhabit their roles with an infectious chemistry, particularly in the upbeat duet “It Takes Two.” And Gavin Creel’s charisma is off the charts in his dual role of Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Catey Sullivan, Chicago Reader: With a cast of Broadway veterans (Stephanie J. Block has been out as the Baker’s Wife since the show opened here; Ximone Rose took the role Friday night) and an onstage orchestra, deBessonet’s staging brings a clarity to the ancient fairy tales Sondheim reshaped and merged (with book writer James Lapine) into a haunting meditation on love, loss, blame, and moral quandaries not even a seemingly all-powerful witch (Montego Glover) could solve.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Penny Tannenbaum, BroadwayWorld: At the center of all this wonder is Montego Glover's electrifying performance as the Witch. All too often, the defanged and chastened Witch is portrayed as reformed and fundamentally changed after intermission. That impression, a holdover from previous encounters with Sondheim's Witch, didn't last long here. Glover is still playing the blame game viciously, maliciously, and fiercely after regaining her youth, pointing her crooked finger at Jack as a surviving She-Giant from above wreaks rampaging vengeance upon the whole kingdom.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Ted C. Fishman, New City Stage: Where to begin? There’s glamorous Montego Glover as the witch who literally transforms in the woods and who delivers a heartstopping, chilling and beautiful rendition of the late-hour anthem “Last Midnight.” And the lessons she imparts in “Children Will Listen”—echoing the simple dulcet version delivered by Cinderella earlier—are equally powerful. Katy Geraghty takes on the always hungry, always cross but ultimately touching Little Red Ridinghood and who with hilarity and song and some gazelle-like skipping raises the worth of mirth with girth. In so doing, Geraghty reinvents a role which is usually played by pixie-like cuties. Then there’s those audience favorites, the two vain princes, played by Gavin Creel and Jason Forbach, both of whom add endless and enchanting, perfectly choreographed comic touches to every moment they have on stage. There’s the dear puppeteer, Kennedy Kanagawa, who, though wordless, creates one of the productions most original characters whom the audience actually cheers for. I should mention everyone else, but, in the words of the show, “then again no.”

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Taylor Clemons, BroadwayWorld: It’s worth noting that this production started its life as a concert, and as such is fairly minimal in its execution. A base set and an onstage orchestra are all we really get in terms of thrills. However, this production has brilliant use of puppetry in many ways (one being the scene-stealing Milkly White, brought to life by the fabulous Kennedy Kanagawa), that add some much-needed fun and spectacle to the production. Though there aren’t many frills, what makes this production work so well is an inherent trust of the material, and the fact that that material is being delivered by some of the best Broadway performers working today.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Cristine Struble, Fansided: The performances by this Broadway touring company are exquisitely delivered. Given the minimal set, their expressiveness is another element that adds to the show’s depth. The slight turn of the hand is just as important as the emotional delivery of a phrase.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly: With such a wealth of world-class talent, it’s difficult to single out standouts among this enchanted ensemble. Every great fairy tale thrives on its antagonist, and Montego Glover gives a powerhouse interpretation of the not-entirely-wicked Witch whose spiteful curse sets the plot in motion. I was initially distracted by how much costumer Andrea Hood makes Glover look like Yogurt from Spaceballs, but once her inner diva is unleashed she gives Bernadette Peters and Vanessa Williams a run for their money on her iconic “Last Midnight” aria. Gavin Creel’s Prince is a comically callow Ken doll, while David Patrick Kelly (of Twin Peaks fame) makes the oft-reinvented role of Narrator/Mysterious Man feel essential once again.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Albert Gutierrez, BroadwayWorld: INTO THE WOODS deals with a variety of themes and issues within its packed storylines and dense cast of characters. Reluctant parenthood, loss of innocence, the dangers of wish fulfillment, infidelity and accidental death. All ripe for an episode of 'thirtysomething.' But the two most prevalent tales of INTO THE WOODS are a deconstruction of both The Hero’s Journey and The Heroine’s Journey. Through both the characters of Jack and Cinderella, we see how these models of storytelling unfold. Jack is our Hero of a Thousand Faces, a simple everyman who is plucked from his nowhere town to embark on a journey to a world and life that changes him, and he returns home a better man than he was before. Cinderella, our feminine Heroine, longs for what she believes may be a perfect world, discovers its reality is not what she wants, and re-invents herself to find the balance within that gives her true happiness.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Quinn Roseboom, Attractions: The cast oozed talent, notably Tony Award Winning Actresses Montego Glover and Stephanie J. Block, who portray the Witch and the Baker’s Wife respectively. They were just absolutely phenomenal. A surprise was the understudy for the role of Cinderella, Ellie Fisherman, who really made the character her own and delivered a fantastic performance.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Joshua Kosman, Datebook: It’s simultaneously spare and sumptuous, tart and tender. It addresses the child in all of us, both literally and figuratively (the median age of Tuesday’s audience was visibly below the norm), while delivering adult wisdom in a nuanced form.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Steve Murray, BroadwayWorld: This revival, with its pared down set design (Tony Award winner David Rockwell) and onstage orchestra looks and feels like a stage concert, the best you’ll ever see. Director Lear deBessonet moves the ensemble expertly allowing Sondheim’s score to shine. Nominated for six Tony’s including Best Revival, the creative crew of Andrea Hood (Costume Design), Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Design), Tony Award winner Scott Lehrer & Alex Neumann (Co-Sound Designers), and Cookie Jordan (Hair, Wigs & Makeup Design) all deserve accolades.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: The Broadway revival was originally led by Sara Bareilles, who played the Baker’s Wife. But top-tier talent cycled in and out during the New York run. By the time I saw the production in December, there had been quite a number of changes. But the company still had the fresh vitality of an opening night cast.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Evan Henerson, BroadwayWorld: No news flash, then, the latest Broadway revival of INTO THE WOODS that wraps up its national tour at the Ahmanson Theatre, is fantastic. Director Lear deBessonet’s spin on this tale of wishes granted and their consequences both embraces the spirit of Lapine’s original productions and also sends the material off in a different direction. Consistently more rollicking than rueful, deBessonet’s production (which began as an Encores! New York City Center limited engagement before transferring to Broadway) goes light on the technical glitz, but certainly gives the company members plenty of rope to go for their Grimm gusto.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying? Chris Willman, Variety: There is, and part of that is finally, once and for all, wiping the taste of the 2014 Disney movie adaptation out of everyone’s minds. It’s not that Rob Marshall’s adaptation was a total disaster (the lingering general consensus among “Into the Woods” fans mostly amounts to: “Not nearly as bad as I expected”), but it was a filmic treatment of a tragicomedy that seemed to be about equally afraid of both slapstick and sorrow, favoring an inoffensive, mushy middle. What a relief it is, then, for anyone who might not have seen a stage version since then, to re-experience all the chortle-out-loud moments that got undercut for the purpose of screen realism. (It’s worth pointing out that the show’s polarized moods are not so schematically split up that the authors don’t throw in plenty of laugh lines even after things get deeply sad and dark.) How much greater, on top of that, when two of the theater’s great conjoined show-closers — “No One Is Alone” and “Children Will Listen” — arrive a little before 11 and, on cue, you find yourself checking your tear ducts, not your watch.

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS Hits the Road, What Are the Critics Saying?
Average Rating: 84.1%


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