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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents The Fiasco Theater Production of "Into the Woods", at Laura Pels Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents The Fiasco Theater Production of "Into the Woods", at Laura Pels Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager

In association with McCarter Theatre Center

The Fiasco Theater Production of
Into the Woods
(Into the Woods Website)

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine

Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
Music Director: Matt Castle
Choreographed by Lisa Shriver

Jessie Austrian, Noah Brody, Matt Castle, Paul L. Coffey,
Andy Groteleuschen, Liz Hayes, Claire Karpen, Jennifer Mudge, Patrick Mulryan, Ben Steinfeld, Emily Young

Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY
(Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre Website)

Set Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Whitney Locher
Lighting Design: Christopher Akerlind
Sound Design: Darron L. West
Associate Director: Michael Perlman
Orchestrations: Frank Galgano, Matt Castle
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Vocal Supervisor: Liz Caplan
Into the Woods Artistic Advisor: Mara Isaacs
Production Stage Manager: Mark Dobrow
Press: Polk & Co.
Into the Woods General Manager: Nicholas J. Caccavo
Director of Marketing/Audience Development: Tom O’Connor
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Adams Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 27, 2015

Other than the 2010 show, Sondheim on Sondheim, and a few cabaret events, tonight was my actual first viewing of Sondheim’s 1987 musical, with story book characters reinventing Cinderella, the Prince, Rapunzel, Jack (and the Beanstalk and Giant), Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf, and a requisite Witch, Baker, Baker’s Wife, and more. As in many storybook reinventions, especially one for adults with double entendres and tunes, actors double their roles. Fiasco Theater is an ensemble company with acting graduates from Brown and Trinity Rep, Providence RI. McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, originally presented Fiasco Theater’s production, now presented at Roundabout. The road to the Laura Pels Theatre was worth the effort. As an ensemble company, Fiasco has built chemistry and comfort between actors and Co-Directors, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, who also act onstage. The ensemble supports one another in dramatic affect, in and out of the spotlight. Matt Castle, Music Director, who doubles as a cow, when he’s not at the upright piano, and Lisa Shriver, Choreographer, maximized the company’s cohesiveness. Moreover, each actor, in an off-moment, or in ensemble song, plays an accompanying instrument - bass, drums, hand percussion, etc.

Derek McLane’s set includes a weathered piano, center stage, that swivels to reveal its back, with Mr. Castle peeping above the wood. Fifteen chandeliers, each different, hang above the stage to signal a freshness and casualness that extend into props (hobby horses for actual horses, a dressmaker form for a tree, and so on). As many of us can recall harvesting our own props and costumes for childhood skits, in living rooms and driveways, Fiasco Theater gives every costume the look of attic-wear. Even the piano seems dust-worn, as do the various ropes and cowbell. The plot is a synthesis of the fairytales that combine these characters, and that plot is less seamless than the songs, as the characterizations and comedic momentum are always in focus. One wonders how the troupe will create a beanstalk and a giant, then how they’ll create a wolf and Red Riding Hood’s cape. Of course, the plot centers on collecting props by a time certain, or the Witch may….not to ruin any surprises. James Lapine’s book projects well from this stage, as do Sondheim’s music and lyrics. I always prefer seeing/hearing the orchestra onstage, when possible, for the clarity and intimacy of the songs. Having actors/singers/dancers also double as musicians is a feat reminiscent of the show, Once.

But, here, we have a busy set, where we’re forced to dispel disbelief. This is certainly a show that children would love, too. The walls and trim of the stage are filled with piano wires and parts (or material to resemble old piano wires and parts), a clever concept to enhance the fantasy-musicality. Whitney Locher’s costumes are fanciful, once again seeming to have been plucked from an old trunk. Elements of this show were also reminiscent of The Fantasticks. Christopher Akerlind’s lighting keeps the stage warm and inviting, while Darren L. West’s sound keeps the songs vibrant. “Our Little World” (Witch and Rapunzel), “It Takes Two” (Baker and Baker’s Wife), “Giants in the Sky” (Jack), “On the Steps of the Palace” (Cinderella), and “I Know Things Now” (Little Red Riding Hood) were all crisply resonant, adding to the show’s wistfulness and wit. I won’t mention one actor over another, as this troupe was so symbiotically charged. John Miller, Music Coordinator, had his work cut out, with instruments leaning against the set, then being lifted and played by a character in the moment. Tone and timing were splendid. Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, Co-Directors, as well as Lucinda, Wolf, Prince, and Baker, are to be especially commended. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at