Centuries old fairy tales like Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood have been told and retold so many times that it's hard to recreate them and make them feel new again. One way would be to take familiar characters and give them a new task to accomplish, another way would be to take a look at what happens after the ''happily ever after." James Lapine's book for Into the Woods attempts to do both.
Each character has their own through line to get to their happy ever after and you can empathize with each on their journey to achieve it. There is a lot of heart and humor in the lyrics and dialog and the performers commendably wring out every drop. The singing is great throughout, the standouts being the gorgeously operatic Rapunzel (Royer Bockus) and Laube in the showy role of The Witch (originated on stage by Bernadette Peters). Other standouts in the cast were dim but sweet Jack (Miles Fletcher) of beanstalk fame and Kjerstine Rose Anderson's tom-boyish firecracker Little Red Riding Hood steals every scene she's in.
This being my first time seeing the show in its entirety, I couldn't help but think about how the film adaptation, due to hit theaters in a few weeks, will measure up. Director Amanda Dehnert's vibrant stage production, with its stripped down, naturalistic approach, reminded me of how the best stories take place most vividly in your imagination.
Into the Woods is running at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts until December 21.