Sunday, May 8, 2022

And now, for a moment of joy!

 I saw Into the Woods last night. It is a musical about 30 years old. I have seen it multiple times in La Jolla (before it went to Broadway), on Broadway and at the Ahmanson in LosAngeles. I love it. It was staged as an encore staged reading. But it was so much more.

It is Sondheim, but with a story that grabs me. Written at the height of the AIDS crisis, the first half is a conglomeration of Fairy Tales: Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and a new story of the Baker and his wife. They all get their happy ending, somehow. In all but the Baker's story, there is a growth from innocent to adult - nearly all with an overt reference to sexual awakening. It's really part of each original fairy tale story in where the allegory is made explicit.

To get their happily ever afters, they will lie, cheat, steal and murder (mainly wolves and giants). Just like the real stories.

Gavin Creel - Prince Charming and the Wolf | Neil Patrick-Harris - the Baker | Heather Headly - The Witch | Sara Barailles - The Baker's Wife | Denée Benton - Cinderella.

And then comes the second act, where the results of their actions come back to haunt them. Like AIDS (remember 30 years ago), the death is random and unexplainable. And, to make it through, this group of seperate acquaintances must band together. Together they slay the Giant(ess), but not all of the cast survive.

The story, the moral, the point, the lesson I have learned from this: is that we all must decide how to live our lives. And we think we are alone. But the memories and love from those gone and the camaraderie of those still here are both need to move forward. As the Baker's Wife sings below - we are not alone.

Wrapped around this beautiful story is a Sondheim ear-worm of a score that Ed truly does not like. (Listen to him sing Into the Woods on repeat :-).

I say all this a preface to say this was the best version I have ever seen. And it is a show that brings our some killer performances. 

Bernadette Peters created the role of The Witch. And everyone I have ever seen does an impression of her role, and can be measured as some percentage as close to Bernadette. Until last night, when Heather Headly (Tony winner as Aida and Grammy winner for her Christian album) grabbed the role and made it her own. She was fantastic, stupendous. I run out of adjectives - but you can see a bit yoruself.

I could go on, but it would just be superlative after one another. So I will post a snippet provided by Broadway World. It is the Baker's Wife (Sara Barailles - famous from the musical Waitress) and The Which (Heather Headly). In the clip from the end of the show, both the Baker's Wife and the Witch have died. The sing to the Baker and his son, still alive at the end of the show.

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