INTO THE WOODS

Started by scenicdesign71, Jan 28, 2022, 10:15 PM

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scenicdesign71

An early concept sketch by Tony Straiges for Into The Woods (Broadway, 1987), currently on view at "Stephen Sondheim in the Archives" at the New York Public Library:

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It's fascinating to see how this odd, unsettlingly dreamlike but highly pictorial image developed into the equally lush but more purely sculptural finished design.  In the end, human architecture (the three houses in the opening number, Rapunzel's tower, Grandmother's house, Cinderella's palace) remained painterly and prettified, if not in quite the ornately Victorian manner of this original sketch (the finished Prologue drop was ultimately based on the German Renaissance engravings of Albrecht Dürer).  But the Woods itself evolved into a dense, almost abstract Joseph Cornell-inspired thicket of shifting branches, without so much of the illustrational feel he was exploring here.


scenicdesign71

#1
It turns out that a coworker at my TV job began his career working at the shop where Into The Woods was being built.  He recalls Straiges's drawings as being (like the sketch posted above, and others I've seen) breathtakingly detailed and crisp, and says he found himself wondering at how much time the designer must have spent simply keeping his pencil sharp enough to achieve such fine linear clarity while rendering the Woods's dense organic textures with such painstaking specificity.

(At which I thought to myself: there are such things as mechanical pencils, with leads as fine as .2mm, no sharpening necessary.  But his point stands: Straiges's draftsmanship is indeed beautiful, enviably sharp and precise).

My painter colleague also remembered Straiges (who would have been in his mid-forties at the time) spending late nights at the shop with the crew, helping to wire thousands of branches to Woods's steel-tracery panels, and placing the flowers himself.  (According to this interview from a few years ago, Straiges had likewise pulled all-nighters with his assistants at Playwrights Horizons painting Sunday in the Park with George on the graveyard shift, while the cast rehearsed onstage during the day).  My friend said that, despite being evidently consumed by his work, Tony was notably mild-mannered, quick with a compliment, and gave surprisingly few notes.


scenicdesign71

https://playbill.com/article/hillary-clinton-joins-into-the-woods-at-arkansas-repertory-theatre

A casting coup: supporters will be tickled by her presence (even if only as a recorded voice), while haters can rejoice in her character's grisly demise.

scenicdesign71

#3
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/06/theater/into-the-woods-review.html

The (many) folks who have questioned why this, of all shows, is being done at Encores! aren't wrong.

Still, I wouldn't have minded catching the performances of Mlles. Headley and Bareilles.  I've only seen one capital-G Great performance in each of those roles (Hannah Waddingham's Witch in Regent's Park; Joanna Gleason's Baker's Wife in the OBC), but rather than revering those performances as "definitive," I'd rather find at least one or two others to join them on their respective shortlists.  (Who says "lonely at the top"?).



scenicdesign71

#4
Partially recast, but still remarkably starry, the Encores! production will move to Broadway for 8 weeks starting June 28:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/theater/into-the-woods-broadway-bareilles.html

Patina Miller's casting as the Witch delights but concerns me:  I'd love to see her take on the role, but she's also at the top of the call sheet for my day job, which is ostensibly (...??) starting up again at the same time ITW begins previews.

We are supposed to be moving to a new studio for the coming season; so perhaps re-assembling our old sets there, and/or building new ones, will occupy us for eight weeks before filming begins.



scenicdesign71

The current limited-run B'way transfer of the City Center staging will have a cast album:

https://playbill.com/article/into-the-woods-broadway-revival-cast-album-to-be-released-this-fall



KathyB

Speaking of this show, I just booked my ticket for the Arvada Center's presentation on September 11. It was a heck of a lot more expensive than the Anyone Can Whistle ticket. But at least I got 25% off. And it's only 20 miles instead of 63.

To be honest, I was thinking of not seeing this one, but there is so little Sondheim performed in this area, I know they'll do a great job, and they did a fantastic Sunday in the Park with George.

scenicdesign71

#7
According to its producers, Into The Woods's limited Broadway transfer has been extended for an additional eight weeks, with additional extension possible, casting to be announced:

https://www.playbill.com/article/into-the-woods-extends-broadway-run-through-october-casting-to-be-announced


I also enjoyed the Washington Post's appreciation of the production's sound design and musical direction, with clarity foremost in mind:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/theater-dance/2022/07/29/into-the-woods-broadway/


...and this NYT story about the inflatable Giant's boot (or one-and-a-half boots, if we're being technical, plus most of one leg) installed on the roof and facade of the Martin Beck (now the Hirschfeld) for ITW's original 1987-89 B'way run:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/27/nyregion/into-the-woods-giants-boot.html

"The boot" was indeed a theater-district icon in its era -- and I must have noticed, but since forgotten, that they'd hauled it out of storage for the show's tepid revival at the Broadhurst in 2002.  But as satisying as it might be, for sheer continuity, to track the thing down and reassemble it atop the St. James, at this point it sounds unlikely. 


DiveMilw

Casting has been announced for the extension.  Everyone is staying on with the show.  This means I really should get my butt down to NYC and see it.  I'm wondering what this will do to the production schedule for David's day job since Patina is at the top of the call sheet?

https://playbill.com/article/entire-cast-of-broadways-into-the-woods-extend-contracts-through-september
I no longer long for the old view!

scenicdesign71

#9
Well, my employer's estimated "late June" (for the day job resuming) ended up being about a month shy of the mark.  (To fill time and pay bills, I jumped onto a movie for the month of July, but will be rejoining my TV crew next week now that our hiatus has finally ended).  And again, there will still likely be plenty of prep work to do in the new studio before cameras can roll.  My completely-uninformed wild guess is that we might still find ourselves ready to begin filming sometime before ITW has quite finished its extension; but if there is any overlap, I have several pet theories as to how it might be managed.  It wouldn't be the first time a moonlighting actor has had to juggle TV and B'way-performance schedules.

In any case, I'm delighted the whole cast is staying with ITW.  That, along with the gainful employment restarting next week, makes me think I probably will make the effort to see it after all.


DiveMilw

An answer to my question!  
" Montego Glover will join current star Patina Miller to share performances as The Witch beginning September 6, with Glover taking performances Tuesday through Thursday and Miller playing Friday through Sunday."

Here's the entire article which includes some other casting changes  The entire cast is staying until Sept 6th and then there will be a few changes, some temporary.  .  
I no longer long for the old view!

KathyB

An article about the set design of the upcoming production in Arvada, CO (which I'm seeing this coming Sunday):

https://arvadacenter.org/inside-the-arvada-center/setting-the-mood--into-the-woods-set-designer-brian-mallgrave

KathyB

Into the Woods
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
September 11, 2022
I've been trying to figure out how to describe this production, which was very good, but I suspect is not going to leave me with as many lasting memories as the 2014 Old Globe production or the 2018 Phamaly production. Maybe I've seen too many productions of Into the Woods. (Is that even possible?) 

Anyway, this was a chance to see what a large-budget ITW was like--this was an Equity production with a full cast and an absolutely gorgeous set. The director's concept was that the stories were taking place in a little girl's bedroom, while the Narrator was reading bedtime stories. At the beginning, they took a few minutes to set up the concept, with the little girl and the Narrator coming in and preparing for bed (although it took a while to actually get into bed). The little girl stayed in bed for the entire first act, except when the bed was needed for plot purposes, and then she moved off to one side of the set.

I just want to say that the set was amazing, and that it functioned almost as its own character. There were many imaginative parts of the set--for example, the fireplace doubled as both Cinderella's tree and Rapunzel's tower. There were something like seven differententrances, including a short door (wainscoting height) at stage right that got used a lot. (I'm sure the actors have a nickname for this door.) The woods were seen as wallpaper. The lighting was also beautiful, giving different colors to the woods at different times in the story. 

During intermission, the stage crew deconstructed the set, to show what had happened in the giant's wake. A large section near the fireplace came off, all the props and furniture (except for the bed) came out, and green shrubbery was arranged on top of one of the walls. When the lights came up for act two, an actor came through one of the entrances, picked up a suitcase and walked out. I think it represented the little girl grown up and leaving for college. (Not sure who the actor was because it wasn't listed in the program, but from a view only of her back, I'm thinking it was the woman who played Milky-White. Speaking of which, I've seen more productions that have an actor playing Milky-White than ones that have her as a prop, and I'm not sure how much I like having the cow played by an actor. The actor playing M-W in the Old Globe production was fantastic, although he, like most of that cast, played quite a few roles. Is it easier to cast the role, or to build a prop? What's the M-W situation with the current Broadway revival? It was definitely an opportunity for another actor to take part in the production, as well as an opportunity for the costuming designer to design a cute cow costume--this one had cloven hoofs on both hands and feet, but, strangely, didn't have an udder.) The death scenes of both giants were kind of a dud--just a very loud THUD combined with some papers falling down from above for both giants.

The entire cast was uniformly outstanding. I can't pick any standout performances. It was definitely worth the 20-mile drive. I'm just not certain if I would go back and see it again. (I definitely have the opportunity to, because I went on the first weekend of the run. To be fair, there's only ever been one production that I've gone to see twice, which was the Denver Center's Choir Boy this past spring.)

This parentheses-laden report is now finished. :)

scenicdesign71

#13
Thank you for sharing your experience, Kathy!   :-*  And also for the link above.  It sounds like a wonderful production!

I was never 100% satisfied by even the very beautiful (but static, therefore inherently a bit lifeless) prop Milky-White from the 1987 Broadway original.  But I've also more than once seen the actor-in-a-cow-costume solution become irritatingly cute, a pitfall that seems almost inevitable by nature.

In the current B'way revival, Milky-White is a puppet, which seems to me like a good "best of both worlds" solution:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/29/theater/into-the-woods-cow-milky-white.html

But some producers might say it's the worst of both worlds: converting what was originally a single prop into two whole additional paid staff positions on an already sizable show. (A good prop cow, like the 1987 original, isn't likely to come cheap, but it's probably less expensive than a functioning puppet.  Depending on circumstances, a static prop could potentially be designed and/or built by existing staff without the need to hire specialized artisans.  I believe the 1987 B'way Milky-White prop was -- along with other sculpted elements like Cinderella's family's carriage and her Prince's horse -- designed by set designer Tony Straiges and built by the late Nino Novellino).


scenicdesign71

#14
The current B'way revival has been extended through January 8, 2023, with casting through November 20 announced today:

https://www.theatermania.com/broadway/news/into-the-woods-revival-casting-november_94338.html

Casting beyond Thanksgiving TBA.  I've been curious how long they'll be able to keep this running with various cast members coming and going; if they can extend at least once more, into next spring, it would be lovely to have two Sondheim shows -- this and Sweeney -- running simultaneously on Broadway.  I'm too lazy to look it up, but while it probably has happened before (if you count WSS or Gypsy revivals, and perhaps the Forum revival in the 70s), I'm guessing it will have been quite awhile.

Wow, and if Woods were to persist into the spring AND Merrily were to arrange a speedy transfer uptown from NYTW, there could potentially even be three Sondheims on B'way at once, which I'm pretty sure would be a first.