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Into The Woods - A Review

Photo Credit:
Dawn Joi, The cast featuring the Witch in the center played by Montego Glover

“Into the Woods,”   I must say is delightful and very uplifting. I can’t say that I expected it to be as wonderful as it is, but it is! In today’s political climate and the harsh realities of what is, Into the Woods is a welcomed escape from all that is bad. It seemed simple enough that the play was the union of  well-known fairytale characters each holding true to its basic narrative yet born to new life  as a musical. But to create  such a fabulous one tale out of many is an ambitious undertaking, requiring a mastery  of sophisticated artistic creative expression rooted in the depth of knowledge rooted in  political purpose that presents the space for natural contagious  laughter and  pleasure. Together, the familiar fairytales  are interwoven with the tale of a baker and his wife, who yearn for a child; Cinderella, who desires to attend the King's Festival; and Jack, of course who wants his cow to give milk; and Little Red Riding Hood who is the desire of the wolf,  all of whom go off into the woods.  

The Baker and his wife’s natural yearning for a baby, as much as they’ve tried  seems hopeless because unbeknownst to them, they’ve been cursed by  their next door neighbor, a witch, who one day just happens to tell of their curse  as she also reveals the remedy to break the spell. So, the baker  played by Sebastian Arcelus and his wife portrayed seamlessly by Ximone Rose Friday, April 28, 2023,  go off on a journey to retrieve items that will break the spell; but not before, Little Red Riding Hood stocks up on delicious bread and pastries from their bakery.

The tale is not new to us who grew up on Perrault and Brothers Grimm fairy tales but “Into the Woods is a finely crafted  quilt of several stories all infusing us with wisdom and  life antidotes, like Little Red Riding Hood’s  warning  to us.  She has lived from her experience in the woods--her encounter with wolf, the dark, death  and the knife. She heeds  us to  be prepared, and confesses “I Know Things Now, ” and  “Watch out for strangers.” She then declares,  “Nice is different than good.”

We are familiar  these fairytales and even if not, we expect a  happy ending. That doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen or that everyone makes it. But like life it depends on where you are on the journey. That’s what Life is all about  and “Into The Woods,”  tells it in a wonderful musical sort of way. The central characters, the mistreated Cinderella who never loses her compassion and kindness towards others; Jack, whose faith is a big as the giant he slays, Little Red Riding Hood who is fearless, the Baker’s wife whose longing for a child grasp at partnership; the simple Baker whose  backbone needs strengthening and the witch who needs a heart.

In the end “Into the Woods” is a tale of people thrown together as their paths cross as each pursue their heart’s desire. It’s a brilliant and sophisticated work of art revealing the departure from childish innocence to adolescent self-centeredness to eventual adult sensibility and interdependence.

There’s much to be learned from this very insightful musical as you look at the cast representing a spectrum of race, ethnicities, men, women, complexions, shapes, and sizes, remindful of “Hamilton,” and yet not rooted in a historical context which makes it so palatable and easy to receive. Yet, the message is upon us as we face the conundrum of today’s world, we live in. What are we  going to do? Will we slay the giant, Do we give up giant slayer to giant’s wife? Or do we band together to survive and win?

The laughter and the applause were  consistent throughout the evening. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing so much applause at any other theatrical performance. You must go for yourself to experience.

Also different is the set design--a forest as abstract  and real as one could be — descending birch trunks, a rising moon and beautiful lighting.  Most surprising is the orchestra on stage behind  the actors. Though wonderful we never see them because our eyes never stray from the characters  who are stage front, simply magical!

Special acknowledgement to Gavin Creel, Red Riding Hood’s Wolf/Cinderella’s the Prince; and Little Red Riding Hood, Katy Geraghty, whose performances were most entertaining; Jack played by Cole Thompson was superb; Montego Glover as the witch is in a class by herself and delivers magnificently. Ta’nika Gibson as Lucinda is wonderful;  Felicia Curry as Granny, Cinderella’s mother and the giant is great; and finally  Milky White puppeteer, Kennedy Kanagawa who was excellent. The entire cast is something to behold.

It goes without saying that I’d be remiss if I didn’t  mention Stephen Sondheim's songs, which are effortlessly bonded to James Lapine's text, as flawless expressions of what makes life what it is. We witness the complexities of living in the modern world facing the many  choices we face on our life journeys” Into the Woods.” We are all in it together.

Photo Credit:

About Author:

Visionary Kai EL´ Zabar has worked as CEO of arts organizations and as editor, writer and multimedia consultant accumulating a significant number of years in experience as an executive, journalist,publisher, public relations, media training, marketing, internal and external communications. Kai currently continues her life’s work as Editor-in-Chief Of Chicago News Weekly where she has resumed her column, “E NOTES.” She is ecstatic to be in the position to grace Chicago and the world with a publication that articulates the Black voice.



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