LA Spotlight: Into the Woods stage musical is performing this month

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Photos by T. Charles Erickson

Disney’s Into the Woods is hitting theaters this Christmas, but if you’re in the Los Angeles area and want to catch the musical that inspired the movie, you can check it out for a limited time this month. The musical is now performing at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90210).

Into the Woods is a stage musical from composer Stephen Sondheim and writer/director James Lapine. The stories are inspired by the Brothers Grimm and follows a baker and his wife as they search for fairy tale items so that they can have a baby. (Curse that Witch!) The couple encounter many popular characters including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, and more. The musical is pretty twisted, but the original fairy tales it’s based on were more twisted before Disney made them family friendly; for example, Cinderella’s stepsisters getting their feet cut so that they can fit into the golden slipper (that’s the Grimm version).

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We all know that most of these fairy tales have some sort of happy ending. The characters in Into the Woods have specific goals, and what they do to achieve them will have consequences after their “fairy tale” ending. What happens once Cinderella and the prince marry each other? Jack has stolen from the giant, and that leads him into trouble. So yes, checking out the stage musical is a great way to see the dark content before Disney “disneyfies” certain elements when the film version hits theaters.

I must admit, I’m not a big fan of the music in Into the Woods, since I think they could be catchier. I haven’t seen other productions of Into the Woods, but I did enjoy this version from The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Production. It features some funny additions, like having the princes ride on tricycles with a horse head attached to it. It took me a while to get used to some of the outfits the characters are wearing, but later on they somewhat resembled the “traditional” fairy tale look.

The more fantastical characters are very stylized, for example, you have the Big Bad Wolf being played by two characters. One is being voiced by Jeremy Peter Johnson, and the actor dressing up as the Wolf is Howie Seago. And then you have Catherine E. Coulson playing a giant, which is pretty much a projector shining on a giant screen with a closeup of Coulson’s face. The funniest characters are the princes, but I have to give props to Miriam A. Laube as the Witch. She gives a great performance showing off her comedic talent as the creepy old Witch.

Hardcore fans of Into the Woods may be disappointed with certain additions or certain aesthetics, and some Disney fans might not like the portrayal of certain characters, but it’s definitely recommended for its take on your favorite fairy tale characters.

Into the Woods runs from December 2 –21, 2014 at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90210).

 

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