Saturday I got to see a production of Into the Woods at the Ahmanson!
So I had purposely avoided the songs and spoilers before, I hadn’t gotten a chance to see the movie version, and I was coming to this with fresh eyes, for the most part. But I did know enough to notice that it was unusual that the program listed so many characters per actor. Speaking with my friends that were with me it was confirmed that with the exception of Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf overlap this was not standard.
All the actors were wearing fairly general clothes, though each character had a distinctive item that could be added or removed as they shifted through their roles, making a clear visual statement of who they were at any given moment. Every actor was also playing instruments (even the piano player would step in for a part here and there – and that man had the patience of a saint to continue playing Sondheim while the entire cast climbed over his piano and spun him around and around) so the coordination required to not need an instrument while the character was needed blew my mind. Every prop was reused again and again.
The stage was nearly bare, the costumes plain with tiny accents, the music focused around that piano, super simple, yet to execute had to be utterly perfect. Timing, tone, translation to something that started complex. And in that simplicity was an amazing complexity of it’s own, which was reflected clearly from the story element that “Happily Ever After” isn’t so clear cut after all, too.
The story is a little wacky, but this production took that up to 11, with a visual humor I don’t think would have been matched by a more complicated production. Something simple isn’t so simple after all, but it worked beautifully.
One thought on “When simple is complicated”
Oh, I want to see this. This is one of my favorite shows ever. I (ahem) even got a bit misty when I was surprised by the theatrical trailer (I didn’t know it was even in production which reflects a major slip on my standards of knowledge). I’ve seen it on stage at least three times, including the last Ahmanson tour when they made the critical mistake of doing a Milky White that stole the scene each time she was on stage. The minimalist approach can work great (MW is often a glorified sawhorse on wheels). So glad you enjoyed it!
(BTW, the movie is really good. I’ve got my nit (and bigger) picks with it, but the first Agony (they cut the second, one of my biggest nits) is fabulous. Christopher Pike is awesome.