My mom and I go see almost every production of Into the Woods that we can find locally. She took me to see it on Broadway for my seventh birthday, and it instilled in me my lifelong love and appreciation of live theater. So over the years its kind of become a thing, even though there is no regularity whatsoever to when we see it, nor do we actively seek out productions of it; we simply see the ones that land close enough to us. Last week, we went to see Barrington Stage Company’s production in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (we did not drive all the way there just to see the show; Pittsfield is a short drive from my sister’s house and we were up visiting for the 4th).
Most of the shows I see are on Broadway and that generally raises my standards of live theater. However, Broadway is also not the be all and end all of good live theater. I’ve seen awful Broadway shows and brilliant community theater productions. Even so, I was not particularly familiar with the work of Barrington Stage Company, and so I had no idea what to expect going in.
I was pleasantly surprised. Of all the productions of Into the Woods that I have seen live, I would say that this one ranks third (behind the Fiasco Theater version and the original Broadway cast). I have seen many different iterations of the show, from full stage productions to high school productions to minimalist productions. This one was somewhere in the middle of all of those. It hit all the right notes, and had all the right elements. Everything I love about the original was there, and the production team made the show their own without completely changing the core idea.
Everyone in the cast was perfect for their role. As is generally the case, I loved the Baker and the Baker’s Wife. They are characters created for the story to tie all the familiar fairy tale characters together. Jonathan Raviv and Mara Davi had great chemistry and were perfectly believable as a married couple. The two Princes, Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince, were absolutely hysterical and probably the best interpretation of these two characters that I’ve ever seen. Their comedic timing was perfect.
One interesting casting choice was Mykal Kilgore as the Witch. The character was still a female, but played by a man. I wasn’t sure about this going in, but Kilgore gave a great performance. I am, however, happy that they kept the character female because, as my sister pointed out, the Rapunzel situation reaches a whole new level of creepy if the witch is a man. As it was, it was kind of like a drag queen version of the witch, which I totally loved. However, because of this, I hoped that it would be a little more over the top. But really it all comes down to the songs, which Kilgore had no problem with.
Costume-wise, I loved it. The costume designer, Jennifer Caprio, combined fairy tale elements with a slightly more modern aesthetic. Both Cinderella and the Baker’s wife wore pants with corset-like peasant tops. They were dressed for the battle in the woods far more than any other versions of themselves that I have seen before. (As it was difficult to find pictures that showed all of this, you can see examples of this in the above image.)
Little Red Ridinghood had one of the most fun interpretations of character, costume-wise, that I have seen in a production of Into the Woods. When she first appears, she is a snarky little schoolgirl in a plaid skirt, pigtails and the signature red cape that she is immensely attached to (like, seriously, more than you should be). After she is eaten by the Wolf and saved, her persona – and costume – changes. The circle skirt becomes a pair of plaid shorts, Mary Janes are traded for tall boots, and the pigtails are put up into messy buns. She visually transforms from childhood into adolescence through her garments.
My only complaint about the costumes might be the Witch, and it’s not a full complaint. I understand that the Witch needs to be over the top, and even more so in this version with a man playing the role. I liked what the costume designer did with incorporating butterflies onto all the Witch’s clothing, as she goes through a massive transformation at the end of Act One. However, there were also some odd choices. For example, the bright green jacket the Witch wears with her dress throughout act two just doesn’t go, for lack of a better way to describe it. I think I wouldn’t have an issue with it if it was just a different color, but I don’t know why!
However, one green jacket was not enough to mar an otherwise very enjoyable experience! If you’re able, I highly recommend checking it out, but go soon! It is playing at the Barrington Stage Company until July 19. You can get tickets here.