"Into The Woods," Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel's revival of the classic Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical, opened at New York's Delacorte Theater in Central Park Thursday with a starry cast that included Amy Adams, making her New York stage debut.
The 1987 musical that weaves together familiar fairy tales and characters won three Tony awards — for Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason) — in its original Broadway production. Unlike the original, this "Into The Woods" features a young boy as the narrator, replacing the Mysterious Man, who has run away from home.
"Into the Woods" is a hot ticket, in part because of the cast, which also includes Broadway stars Donna Murphy (right), who can be seen in "The Bourne Legacy," playing the Witch and Denis O'Hare of "True Blood" as the Baker. Glenn Close — or at least her voice — makes a cameo, as The Giant. Plus, it's Sondheim. And, of course, tickets are free.
So what did the critics think of three-time Oscar nominee Adams and the Public Theater's production?
Ben Brantley of the New York Times was not a fan of the overall production, writing, "This high-concept repackaging of beloved archetypes feels like the work of an overeager Hollywood production team desperate to tap the tweener market." Of Adams, he said the actress, appearing as the Baker's Wife, "remains an attractive blank throughout, without the nervy, dissatisfied restlessness the part requires."
Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal said Adams "proves to be a very good singer who is also at ease onstage, though she lacks the apple-crisp bite of irony that Joanna Gleason brought to the original 1987 Broadway production. Of the production, he said, "It's hard to imagine a production of 'Into the Woods' going flat, but that's what this one does."
New York Daily News critic Joe Dziemianowicz called the production "a mixed bag," saying it "can be shrill and alienatingly eccentric, from characterizations to costumes. Some key performances fail to bring out the beauty of the music or to pop as colorfully as they might — or both." Adams, he wrote, "has a pretty voice, but she’s upstaged by her huge boule-shaped coif."
Peter Marks of the Washington Post, noting that Adams was "an irresistible presence in such films as 'Enchanted,'" wrote that she is "merely pleasant" in this production, while other performances, "come across at times as shrill or, even more often, laboriously bedraggled."
Not every critic was so harsh. Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter said, "The bucolic setting of Central Park’s Delacorte Theater adds immeasurably to the impact of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1987 fairy tale-inspired musical. This version doesn’t entirely smooth out the rough edges of this darkly beguiling work. But its numerous imaginative touches, as well as a first-rate cast headed by Amy Adams (in her New York stage debut), Donna Murphy and Denis O’Hare, provide ample compensations."