“Into the Woods” at the Barksdale has already received all sorts of rave reviews – and I really like how they’ve integrated critical comments and pictures on their web site. Check it out if you haven’t seen it – it’s pretty cool.
But due to the often complicated scheduling of things at Style, my review won’t come out until next week. As you’ll see when you read it, I’ve added my own smatterings of high praise. I love the show and thought it was a fine production. In particular, I loved the nuance and depth I saw in Robyn O’Neill’s performance as the witch. And I could have watched Rita Markova all night; she is just lovely and extremely talented. I guess I have a thing about beautiful brunettes with knock-out voices (are you reading, Mrs. T?) And so you won’t think I am just a leering sexist, I found the princes’ both exceptional. Mr. Resnick and Mr. Rowland doing “Agony” and its reprise were about my favorite parts of the show.
But unlike Ms. Haubenstock and others, I didn’t feel this production deserved an unconditional rave. On opening night, I heard someone miss a note. Not unusual so I didn’t give a second thought. But then someone else missed another note. When it reached 3 or 4 instances, I couldn’t ignore it. I don’t have the best ear in the world but after all of those hours of “American Idol,” I know when something’s “pitchy.” This is also in contrast to “Austin’s Bridge” which I just saw last week – the songs may have been somewhat less complicated in that show but I didn’t hear a bad note all night at that opening. And that was with only piano accompaniment where I believe a vocal clunker would have stuck out more plainly.
There was also at least one song where the tempo seemed odd (OK, it’s Sondheim but even odder than you might expect) and another when the violin seemed to be playing off a different score entirely.
I also was unimpressed with the scenic design, though in fairness this is in comparison to the incredible work the Barksdale has put on before. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that giant’s arm before; perhaps in something Theatre IV has done in the past?
These are all minor indiscretions, particularly in the face of how good everything else is, and some of the musical mishaps may have been ironed out by this point in the run. Also, in fairness I should say that I still have tucked in my memory banks the Swift Creek Mill production from 15 years ago, which set the bar pretty high in terms of this show. I try to avoid straight comparisons between productions at all costs but I can’t deny that the fond recollection of that production influences how I have seen every production of “Woods” since.
My complete opinion will be available in Style next week but you don’t have to wait until then to weigh in. Am I off my gourd criticizing “Woods?” Let me have it!