"Into the Woods," Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale fantasia celebrated in a silver/golden anniversary (25th for the musical, 50th for the Public Theater in Central Park), takes advantage of two breakthroughs from performances at London's Regent's Park in 2010, commemorating Sondheim's 80th birthday.
First, the formerly adult narrator is now a child: Noah Radcliffe in Monday's performance (attended by Sondheim), alternating with Jack Broderick. The boy, who's run away from home, may be dreaming the entire adventure. The other breakthrough: Staging "Woods" in the woods. Duh. Outdoor atmospherics do wonders for Sondheim and James Lapine's at-times contrived mashup of four fairy tales linked to The Baker and His Wife.
A spell has rendered the couple childless, but the Witch offers a remedy: Collect four potion ingredients -- milky white cow (from Beanstalk Jack), red cape (Little Red Riding Hood), hair the shade of corn (Rapunzel) and golden slipper (Cinderella).
As Jack, Gideon Glick is guilelessly witty in his boyish way, while Tess Soltau's Rapunzel is as unhinged as you'd expect of a maiden locked in a doorless tower. Jessie Mueller as Cinderella brings delicious ambivalence to snaring Prince Charming. She and Rapunzel are pursued by "princes" Ivan Hernandez and Paris Remillard, whose "Agony" confessionals deliver exquisite farce. (Remillard subbed for a recuperating Cooper Grodin.) But the most fully drawn fairy-tale denizen is Sarah Stiles' biker-babe, pastry-popping Little Red.
But the waggers of this tale are the barren couple: flour-dusted Baker, "True Blood's" Denis O'Hare, whose unremarkable voice empowers him as Everyman, and his wife, beleaguered Amy Adams, who charms us with her folk grit. Adams' verses in "No One Is Alone" haunt us as the woods grow darkest behind music director Paul Gemignani's ominous accompaniment. Chip Zien, who originated the Baker in 1987, returns as Mysterious Man.
John Lee Beatty and Soutra Gilmour's Escher-like treehouse set keeps director Timothy Sheader's character flow churning like a storybook Ferris wheel, accented by Emily Rebholz's iconic costumes and Ben Stanton's terror-in-the-night lighting.
You could get lost in "Woods" and not care if you emerge from its enchantment.
WHAT "Into the Woods"
WHEN | WHERE Extended through Sept. 1, 8 p.m., Delacorte Theater, Central Park, 81st Street at Central Park West entrance
ADMISSION Free, tickets at box office 1 p.m. day of show and by lottery, shakespeareinthepark.org, 212-539-8500
A matinee for children
A family-friendly version of the current Shakespeare in the Park production "Into the Woods" -- first act only -- is set for Aug. 22.
It's part of the Public Theater's plan to make theater "accessible to all. Young people . . . deserve to be part of the story," said the public's artistic director Oskar Eustis.
Free tickets for the 3 p.m. performance will be distributed by the virtual ticketing process and the traditional line. For information, go to shakespeareinthepark.org/matinee.