You Wish to Have the Curse Reversed?

I’ve got some bad news to start off this post. This particular production of Into the Woods I saw has not only closed since I saw it (sorry about that delay, I had a trip to the UK I was prepping for) but there are also no production photos that are up for use so it’s going to be all words. I’ll try to keep it short so as not to scare anyone away with large blocks of text without anything pretty to look at. I can make no guarantees.

This is actually the third production of Into the Woods I have seen in the last couple of years and I find it really fascinating how different each production of this musical can be just by changing a few things here and there. One of the productions I saw was a more classic take on the show which was performed at the Cupcake Theater and the other was a touring production of Fiasco Theater’s take on the show I saw at the Ahmanson in 2017 during my first year as a season ticket holder. Out of the two, I was completely enamored by Fiasco Theater’s production due to its stripped down nature, bare bones approach to telling this show. The production I saw at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank seemed heavily inspired by Fiasco’s take on the show but couldn’t quite live up to that particular level.

When I tried to find this theater, wandering through the small park with the large plane out front, following my Maps app on my phone, I quickly developed a series of doubts about the show quality that were not assuaged when I finally arrived at the easily missed complex that housed the theater. Maybe I’m just becoming a snob, though you’d think I would have learned that theater size doesn’t negate their ability to put on a quality show from The Cupcake. Regardless, I tried to hold on to some optimism about the show as the meager crowd and I entered into the theater. I wasn’t prepared by what I saw.  Color me humbled, but I was suddenly very impressed.

Walking in through the doors, it immediately felt as though I had been swept away to a small cabin in the woods in the 1800s. There was antique furniture on the small stage, including a large steamer trunk, a scrappy piano, and an old wardrobe. Hanging from the rafters and the support beams were carefully placed cobwebs adding to its old cabin aesthetic. Bits  of greenery were interwoven into the set pieces giving it an almost overgrown, abandoned feeling without being over the top. The lighting was warm and cozy. I was ecstatic to see what was going to come next.

Unfortunately, what followed did not live up to the hype their set instilled in me but it was still an enjoyable night out at the theatre. The cast has been scaled down to eleven actors, the orchestra is composed of the scrappy piano (beautifully tuned, of course), a violinist (who plays expertly), and found objects such as a ukulele and an old metal wash bin to name a couple.  The way the show is performed was imaginative and I give this production its due credit on this front. The show unfolds as though you were putting it on at home in your barn (helped tremendously by the feeling of the set), but of course with a professional cast, lighting, costumes, and set. Its cozy and intimate and feels so inviting and personal. It’s like two and a half hours of visual story time and I haven’t sat through a production that feels like it has captured the fairy tale story aspect of this particular musical before. Many kudos to this team for bringing that to light.

There were times throughout the show where many of the actors reached for notes in songs that they couldn’t hit and the songs fell a little short of greatness except for Jacob Krech (Jack) and Tiffany LaBarbera Palmer (The Witch). Palmer plays a pretty standard approach of The Witch. She’s a bit zany, a bit creepy, but overall commandeers attention when on stage with her sheer presence. She did a beautiful rendition of “Children Will Listen” and “Last Midnight” that I thoroughly enjoyed which, I suppose is a true credit to her talent since those are usually not my favorite songs of the show. Jacob Krech, though. Wow.  It was hard to pay attention to anyone else while he was on stage. He was fascinating to watch even when he wasn’t speaking or singing because I was so intrigued by what he was getting up whether that was the way he peeked out from behind the trunk like he was eavesdropping on The Witch and Rapunzel or having fun with Milky White (his best cow) while The Baker and The Baker’s Wife sorted things out center stage. I’m really looking forward to seeing where his career goes from here and hoping he’ll be in something again soon.

Well, I think that’s all I’ll say on this post since the show has closed. I’m a big fan of Into the Woods as a show due to the versatility of the material so I’m really excited to see more productions of this show and see what else people can do with this material.  Keep your eye out for Domino One Productions, too, the company that put on this version of Into the Woods. They could grow into another Cupcake Theater if they keep this up.

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