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Theater Review: 'Into the Woods' -- 2 stars

(L-R) Jessie Mueller, Sarah Stiles, Gideon Glick and

(L-R) Jessie Mueller, Sarah Stiles, Gideon Glick and Denis O'Hare in "Into the Woods." (Joan Marcus) Credit: (L-R) Jessie Mueller, Sarah Stiles, Gideon Glick and Denis O'Hare in "Into the Woods." (Joan Marcus)

Into the Woods
2 stars

The Shakespeare in the Park revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1987 fairy tale musical "Into the Woods" was expected to be - and really should have been - the theater event of the summer.

After all, it is based directly on an acclaimed 2009 London production and has a stellar cast that includes Amy Adams and Broadway goddess Donna Murphy. Many automatically assumed that it would transfer to Broadway immediately following the park run.

While it is certainly not the disaster that some people described on Twitter following the first preview performance, it does prove to be a frustrating, puzzling and poorly conceived production that turns a beloved masterpiece into a mess.

The show's first act skillfully interweaves famous fairy tales around the framework of a baker and his wife attempting to undo a spell placed upon them by a witch.

Although all their stories seem to end happily right before intermission, Act Two brings up new conflicts and emphasizes various issues of morality, community and parenthood.

Except for the intriguing idea to make the narrator a creative young boy instead of an old man, the rest of the revival is in disarray.

With scenes being performed on multiple levels of a three-story set, it is often difficult to follow the show.

The performances are a mixed bag. As the baker's wife, Adams is vocally strong but lacks distinct characterization. Murphy, despite a few great moments, has pitch problems.


If you go: "Into the Woods" plays through Sept. 1 at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Go to publictheater.org for info on obtaining free tickets. 

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