Susan Granger’s review of “Into the Woods” (Westport Country Playhouse: 2012 season)

By Susan Granger

Mark Lamos’ 25th anniversary revival of this fanciful, fairy-tale musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is powerful, potent and bewitching.


As the wish-fulfillment story begins, the narrator (Jeffrey Denman), manipulating a puppet theater, introduces four characters: lovely Cinderella (Jenny Latimer), who yearns to go to the Palace Festival; amiable Jack (Justin Scott Brown), who needs his cow, Milky-White, to give milk; and the anxious Baker (Erik Liberman) and his Wife (Danielle Ferland), who desperately want a child. Their quests are interwoven with familiar Grimm tales of the wicked Witch (Lauren Kennedy), Little Red Riding Hood (Dana Steingold), the Wolf (Nik Walker), Rapunzel (Britney Coleman), and Prince Charming (Robert Lenzi), among others. Then, having achieved their respective “happily ever afters,” Act II examines the catastrophic consequences of their actions as touching and tender relationships - both romantic and parental -- falter...”sometimes people leave you/halfway through the wood”...culminating in poignant lessons each traveler has learned along the way.


What’s unusual about this metaphorical musical is Stephen Sondheim’s intelligent, intricate lyrics, sometimes setting the tone of the story, other times delving into the subconscious. In “Your Fault,” everyone places blame on others for the terrible events that occur -- until they realize that they are each at fault in their own way: “I ventured out and saw within.” And always: “Children will listen.”


Astutely conceived by Artistic Director Mark Lamos, the staging of this challenging musical sets a high standard as it opens the Playhouse’s 82nd season -- with a top-notch cast, including many Broadway veterans, and creative team that includes Sean Curran, Wayne Barker, Allen Moyer, Candice Donnelly, Robert Wierzel, Zachary Williamson and Michael Rossmy, among others.


“Fairy tales are the bedrock of dreams, psychosis and creativity,” notes Mark Lamos. “They lodge in our fantasies and nightmares.”


FYI: After years of negotiation, it’s reported that Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) will direct a film adaptation for Walt Disney Pictures with Lapine writing the script and Sondheim developing new songs.


Until then, don’t miss “Into the Woods” at the Westport Country Playhouse through May 26th.

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