Go ‘Into the Woods’ at Signature Theatre. Come out charmed.


Because the Baker’s Spouse sings, in just a little “Into the Woods” epiphany: “If lifestyles have been most effective ‘moments,’ you then’d by no means know you had one.” Smartly, “Into the Woods” is having a kind of moments, and it’s intriguing to take a look at why.

The musical is freshly flourishing, a spurt of recognition that began previous this yr, when an off-Broadway live performance model, directed by means of Lear deBessonet, gained sparkling notices and leaped in a flash to Broadway, the place it’s been taking part in for months. Now any other manufacturing, with a radically other glance, has began up at Signature Theatre in Arlington, the place it’s been scheduled for a 12-week run, the longest deliberate engagement within the corporate’s greater than 30-year historical past.

The gamble is a great one, for “Into the Woods” has the texture of a winner for Signature, a troupe that has lengthy staked its popularity on powerful revivals of the musicals of Stephen Sondheim. (It used to be the musical that christened its present headquarters within the Village at Shirlington in 2007.) The brand new manufacturing, staged by means of director Matthew Gardiner in what looks as if the ruins of a woodland cottage, adheres to the corporate’s top requirements for musicality and design. What has but to be expansively embraced by means of a number of within the solid of 17 — which contains the recorded voice of Phylicia Rashad as a livid Large — is the searing emotionality on this tale, of needs granted however hopes dashed.

It’s a difficult duality that animates the paintings of Sondheim, who composed the spiky, melodic ranking, and James Lapine, who wrote the guide. The 1987 musical is populated by means of fairy-tale characters — some well-known, some newly minted — who exist in a fugue state, stuck between their fantastical roles and their bizarre human predicaments. The Baker and his Spouse (Jake Loewenthal, Erin Weaver) want synthetic intervention to conceive a kid. Cinderella (Katie Mariko Murray) seeks get away from a lifeless life, in an wrong mate (Vincent Kempski). Little Crimson Using Hood (Alex De Bard) is a headstrong kid, finding out of the appetites and obligations of maturity. The Witch (Nova Y. Payton) imposes her smothering grievances on daughter Rapunzel (Simone Brown), whom she’s selfishly locked away.

The musical’s interlocking tales are laced with a wit that borders on callous. The characters are able to each excessive generosity and excessive cruelty as they’re compelled to care for the phobia they have got unleashed: that Large wreaking havoc at the kingdom. Like the remainder of us, they try towards the perception that they’re at fault for the ills that befall them: “No, in fact what in point of fact issues is the blame, any person accountable,” Payton’s Witch sings with scathing authority in “The Final Middle of the night.” “Fantastic, if that’s the article you revel in, putting the blame, if that’s the purpose, give me the blame.”

“Into the Woods” is freighted with such a lot of concepts that it will possibly get misplaced in its personal cleverness. At two hours and 45 mins together with intermission, it overstays a bit of. However in its central preoccupation with penalties — how our needs and alternatives impact ourselves and others — one will get an inkling of why “Into the Woods” turns out particularly pressing at the moment. “Chances are you’ll know what you want, however to get what you need, higher see that you simply stay what you’ve got,” the Baker’s Spouse proclaims in a spoken-word manufacturing quantity. One hears in such recommendation some crucial knowledge concerning the plight of Earth itself.

Gardiner makes an attempt to impose as a lot order as is conceivable at the fairly unwieldy narrative backbone of the piece: The Narrator (Christopher Bloch) stumbles upon the overgrown cottage (an evocative rendering of decrepitude by means of set dressmaker Lee Savage). He fetches a dusty guide, the storybook characters emerge from cabinets and fireplaces, and as soon as upon a time starts. We’re in a metaphorical woods, as the home turns into the assembly level for the characters to sing, pursue their quests and in the long run discover what occurs within the “ever after.”

After all, one of the vital pleasures of “Into the Woods” is the fusion of Sondheim and Lapine’s urbane notions, with the apparently much less fraught psyches of characters dreamed up for kids’s intake. So in a resplendent “Agony,” two princes (Kempski and Paul Scanlan) sing hilariously about their irreconcilable missions, of constructing their brides glad whilst in search of the following damsel in misery. Murray, in a phenomenal ball robe by means of dress dressmaker David I. Reynoso, provides an endearing account of Cinderella’s existential indecision in “At the Steps of the Palace.” And Weaver invests “Second within the Woods” with all of the wistfulness you should need in a personality who, like such a lot of of the others, is a sufferer of her personal contradictory impulses.

Simplest within the ambition to get previous the glibness of “Into the Woods,” to permit an target audience to revel in the poignancy of beings who desperately need so as to write their very own glad endings, does this once in a while chilly manufacturing come throughout as just a little missing. That’s for the reason that middle of the display isn’t such a lot communing with one’s inside kid as with an collection of recognizable grown-ups as bothered as we’re. We glance to them for a mirrored image of our personal perpetual searches for serenity, and readability.

Into the Woods, song and lyrics by means of Stephen Sondheim, guide by means of James Lapine. Directed and choreographed by means of Matthew Gardiner. Song course, Jon Kalbfleisch; set, Lee Savage; costumes, David I. Reynoso; lights, Amanda Zieve; sound, Eric Norris; orchestrations, Jonathan Tunick. With Maria Rizzo, Adelina Mitchell, Chani Wereley, Sherri L. Edelen, Lawrence Redmond. About 2 hours 45 mins. Thru Jan. 29 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. sigtheatre.org.

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