Michael On...


The designer lets us in on one of his favorite off-duty must-do’s—a night on Broadway.

To say that no one has changed the face of musical theater like Stephen Sondheim is an understatement. Seeing the new Fiasco Theater production of Into the Woods at the Roundabout Theatre here in New York and last week seeing a new production of Assassins at the Chocolate Factory in London made it more apparent than ever that Sondheim’s work deserves to be reexamined again and again.

In this production of Into the Woods, you feel that you are discovering something for the first time, even if you have seen the play innumerable times, as I have—along with the fabulous Disney film version. It takes the talent of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim to be able to weave all these classic fairy tales into one story and make it relevant for everyone of any age.

The Fiasco Theater ensemble group truly shows what it means to be an ensemble. The majority of the actors play numerous parts with a quick sleight of hand plus musical instruments and slide from character to character with the greatest of ease. The big numbers from the play like “No One is Alone” and “Last Midnight” are classics for the ages. The entire cast performs seamlessly with one another in that rare situation that exemplifies what ensemble acting is all about.

In an unusual turn, two of the major players, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, co-directed this production, proving that you can be a gifted performer and stage director at the same time and do it with great aplomb.

Little fun tricks like using a curtain rod and hats to turn two male actors into Cinderella’s evil stepsisters or stick horses that the princes ride on or, in fact, that a stuffed wolf’s head is used for the big bad wolf character, are clever without being jokey.

The very fabulous set by Derek McLane feels like the coolest attic you could ever imagine, where the players constantly discover new things that can turn into props or instruments. The costumes by Whitney Locher have a Victoriana meets Williamsburg vintage sensibility. In fact, the whole production has a Brooklyn air about it in the best sense of the word.

Go and see this show to understand that fairy tales actually are a part of everyday life and no matter how old you are, everyone needs some escape and perhaps a lesson to learn at the same time. What could be better?


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