Review Roundup: Were the Critics Enchanted By INTO THE WOODS at the Hollywood Bowl?
Into The Woods officially opened at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday, July 26, for its three-performance run which ends today, July 28.
The star-studded cast features Skylar Astin as the Baker; Sierra Boggess as Cinderella; Chris Carmack as Rapunzel's Prince; Anthony Crivello as the Mysterious Man; Sutton Foster as the Baker's wife; Tamyra Gray as Granny and Cinderella's Mother; Edward Hibbert as the Narrator; Gaten Matarazzo as Jack; Edelyn Okano as Cinderella's Stepmother; Patina Miller as the Witch; Cheyenne Jackson as Cinderella's Prince and the Wolf; Hailey Kilgore as Rapunzel; Rebecca Spencer as Jack's Mother; and Shanice Williams as Little Red Riding Hood.
The darkly humorous and hauntingly beautiful masterpiece, with book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is the 20th annual fully staged summer Broadway musical produced by the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl. Into the Woods is directed and choreographed by Tony® nominee Robert Longbottom and conducted by Kevin Stites, who will also serve as musical director.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Michael Quintos, BroadwayWorld: Beautifully sung and acted, this INTO THE WOODS curiously feels much more heightened than other iterations I have seen, despite its choice of just occupying, primarily, a center footprint on the massive Bowl stage. It is safe to say, though, that there is not a single weak link to be found in the cast and the chemistry between the actors on stage are off-the-charts palpable, as if they are a well-meshed real family that have been marinating in their respective roles for many years (instead of just a few weeks).
Jordan Riefe, The Hollywood Reporter: In fact, it does more than work, it's frequently outstanding, notably in the performance of Miller as the Witch. Most will recognize the actress as Daisy Grant on Madam Secretary, a role that taxes few of the muscles that won her a Tony for the 2013 revival of Pippin. Here, Miller brings pathos to the heartrending aria "Stay With Me," toward the end of the first act, then blossoms into her younger self in the second act, dazzling in costume designer Ann Hould-Ward's bewitching form-fitting magenta gown, and building to a beguiling rendition of "Last Midnight."
Imaan Jalali, LA Excites: Overall, the historic Hollywood Bowl venue and a stellar cast have made for a memorable staging of "Into the Woods" that boasts just as much substance as it does spectacle. Whenever there is this much hype surrounding a project, letdowns are usually expected. However, in this case, the established performers have shown why they have the reputations they do, rising to the significance of the moment, to become the grand sum of their parts and reach dizzyingly delightful heights. It is an "Ever After" ode to Stephen Sondheim and the ardent supporters of musical theatre.
Alisa Hayashida, South Pasadenan: The cast was star-studded and did not disappoint. Crowd favorite, Gaten Matarazzo, of "Stranger Things" fame, was a wide-eyed and earnest Jack. Most fans were probably unaware of Matarazzo's Broadway chops which included a critically acclaimed run as Gavroche in Les Miserables. He more than held his own with some of the other heavy hitters on stage. Broadway and West End veteran, Sierra Boggess showed why she is known as the best Christine in Phantom ever, as she beautifully interpreted "On The Steps of The Palace" as Cinderella.
Tony Frankel, Stage and Cinema: With an ensemble like this, it would be a miracle if one stood out. Yet that's precisely what happened. Cheyenne Jackson plays Cinderella's Prince with a rich, organic performance full of textured nuances and brilliant comic timing (his duet of "Agony" with Chris Carmack as Rapunzel's Prince was a highlight.
Erin Conley, On Stage and Screen: But the night belonged to Miller, who seemed to be having the time of her life as the Witch. From her flawless rap in act one to a stunning "Last Midnight" in act two, she steals the show with her swagger and gorgeous vocals. The Witch's story usually ends with her being struck down by another curse, but here, in a true power move, no such thing happens. Instead, she simply says her parting words and struts off the stage, leaving the other characters to deal with the consequences of the events she set in motion. Overall, seeing these incredible actors sing what I consider to be one of Sondheim's best scores feels like a rare treat that should not be missed if you are a theater fan in Los Angeles this weekend.
Photo Credit: Craig Mathew at the Hollywood Bowl, provided courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association