On the spur of the moment we dropped our plans for yesterday evening and joined Wired and her kids at Park Square Theater for a showing of Into the Woods.
The show was by Mu Productions, a local theater group dedicated to promoting Asian Americans in the arts. So this was an entirely race-bent casting of Into the Woods. Well, race-bent in the sense that the musical is traditionally cast as European or white or something like that, and all of these actors (with one or two possible exceptions?) were Asian American. (I have never thought of the characters as being particularly of one race or another. But if it’s not coded, it’s white by default, here in my country and culture.) The staging and costumes were Asian, well, themed? Influenced? in some lovely ways.
This was the last pre-run show, in that the production opens tonight. It was, therefore, very slightly uneven. One missed entrance, a couple flubbed lyrics, some uncertainty about where props were. But the quality was overall very good. Some excellent voices.
The most interesting thing about this production to me was the fact that it was the funniest production of the four I’ve seen. (All the stagings of Into the Woods I’ve seen have been local, small productions with varying degrees of tradition or experiment.) I mean, this was a riotously, uproariously funny rendition of the musical. I was laughing so hard I was coughing. All of us were laughing, J and N and our kids and Wired and her kids and the rest of the audience. Jack was fantastic, The Baker’s Wife was splendid, the reactions from other characters were hilarious, the Princes were side-splittingly funny.
The show was still serious, still dark, especially in the second half. It is Sondheim, after all. But the actors made certain to represent the adult layers of humor on top of the other levels. This sexuality humor, while present in the text, was on display through facial expressions and reaction takes in a more obvious way than the other shows I’ve seen. It was delightful.
Most of the bawdy moments went right over the heads of the kids, while they loved all the other humor. I really appreciate art that has layers for different audience members.
Overall, I think that my very personal preference for Into the Woods is a slightly darker take. But I in no way objected to this interpretation. It was really, really, really funny.
I mean, seriously funny.
If you have a chance to see Mu Productions Into the Woods at the Park Square Theater I highly recommend it.