A Beautiful Play with Great Morals and Characters

Review of Into the Woods at the 5th Avenue Theatre

Written by Luna Walker during an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School


I am reviewing Into the Woods which we saw as a school it is a musical by Stephen Sondheim is a mix of a bunch of classic fairytales mixing the morals plot and characters and intertwining their stories in the first act and then in the second act creating a completely new story with all of the characters. It also introduces new morals from the intertwined stories and uses the woods as a metaphor for change. My opinion is that Into the Woods is an amazing musical having seen the play many times before 5th avenues acting lived up to the musical's name. It has great actors and the set works really well with the transitioning between scenes and most importantly the morals of the story are amazing and still relevant despite this musical being written in 1986.

But the acting itself makes me say everyone should try to see the 5th avenue production of Into the Woods. Into the Woods is about Cinderella, a baker and his wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his mother, and a witch’s wish. Cinderella wishes to go to the ball, the baker and his wife wish for a child, Little Red Riding Hood wishes to visit her granny, Jack and his mother wish for money, and the witch wishes for her youth and beauty back. All of these wishes take them IInto the Woods and all their stories intertwine, mostly held together by the baker and his wife, and also a mysterious old man who keeps appearing in all of their stories. And then in the second act there is a giant in the land which is when this becomes its own story not based on the plot of the fairytales at all the second act follows they’re journey attempting to defeat the giant and losing beloved ones along the way and how they react to said losses.

One reason why I would recommend everyone go see Into the Woods is because the actors were amazing. One very interesting thing about this production is it’s all done by youth kids 14-18 to be exact and the acting was amazing not even considering how young this cast is.

When the characters were upset you could almost believe the actors were actually that upset. The actor of the baker made people feel for him when he started placing blame, if he hadn’t placed the blame in another production you’d ask who he had just lost someone important to him of course he was placing blame. And when the witch lost someone to the woods her reaction made all her subsequent actions make sense, you felt for her you didn’t get mad when she tried to hand the other characters over to the villain it made sense she was hurting. And in the first act the actors knew how to show what their character really wished the reactions or transitions of thought process never felt anticipated; it was like they actually were hearing this for the first time right then. You could always hear them even from the balcony which is where I sat and the comedy lines were delivered perfectly. That was the other good part of this production the actors knew when it was supposed to be funny they didn’t try to make a serious scene funny when it needed to be serious or a funny scene serious when it was obviously written to be funny and unless it was in the middle of a song and they couldn’t fall behind or get off rhythm they never stomped on the audience's laughter or clapping by continuing to talk. This all supports my argument that the acting was amazing.

Another reason I’d recommend people see Into the Woods is because the LED lights added to the plot and characters. It was very effective and in most places it fit just right because the one problem with live theater is a lot of the time you’ll need the actors plus like 250 people running around on stage to change sets in between scenes and sometimes just the characters changing sets is distraction enough it makes it hard to be fully immersed in the world. Imagine the main character just gave their speech to the audience on why they sold over to the bad guy not wanting their friends to get hurt or whatever it is and your deeply moved when oh- there's a bunch of people in a mix of costume and all black hurrying around the stage moving this there and putting that there and oh- wait wasn’t that character dead ages ago what are they doing here they couldn’t have had them change the set out of costume! You’re completely sucked back out of your trance back in reality thinking about how itchy your leg is or something when you were so immersed you couldn’t tell before and it’s pretty hard to get re-immersed when it took so much to get immersed in the first place! It sucks like really sucks 5th avenues production of Into the Woods doesn't have that problem like sure theres characters exiting on and off that’s unavoidable but except for the beginning of each act (everything leading up to the song "Into the Woods", or "Into the Woods (Reprise)" depending on which act your watching) it all takes place in the woods and the woods set is made up almost entirely by LED lights. I’ll admit at first I was skeptical, LED lights in a fairytale world ha please! That makes literally no sense! they didn’t have LED lights back then. But it ended up working amazing because there was no people coming on who weren't characters and the characters were never changing sets on stage and when certain characters or groups of characters came on the lights changed color to show the

audience the basis of what we need to know about that character one example of this is in the show is when the wolf comes on the lights turn a bright stressful red, blood red almost and it told the audience everything they needed to know that the wolf would be a villain and that the wolf was dangerous but also they didn’t have to change sets the second he went on or the second he went off so you were still immersed I know I’ve said that word alot but there isn’t really a better word. Also the scene changing stop light red the second you walk on set is never a good sign, let the wolf know that when you're there I just think it would be wise to let him know.

Another example of how the LED lights worked perfectly with the plot and characters is when the giant steps down in the second act there's no shaking or makeshift paper mache foot they use the lights, a specific pattern goes on the lights each time she steps down along with a loud sound effect.

One last reason everyone should see Into the Woods is that the themes were amazing and there were so many. There are 3 main ones that all feed into each other and those are the ones I want to talk about. These three themes are: No one is alone in their opinion, there isn’t always a correct answer or solution, and there are many views on things this. These three themes get there own song called “No One is Alone.” In this song Little Red Riding Hood is struggling with the concept that the group is killing the giant but the giant is bad for killing their friends and family and she’s worried her mom and grandma wouldn’t approve. And Jack is wanting to kill the person who killed one of his family members as revenge. Cinderella explains to Red Riding Hood that there are many views to things and that it doesn't matter if her mom or grandma would think what she did is wrong or right the only thing that matters is she thinks she did the best she could and didn’t betray her core beliefs. The Baker explains to Jack that it would be wrong to kill a person who has killed because if it’s wrong for the person to kill then Jack killing him is wrong and then takes it back and explains it’s hard to figure out what's wrong and what's right but the only thing we can do is the thing we find morally correct. Both Cinderella and the baker come to the conclusion that no matter what you choose to do there will be someone against it and it can feel like that's everyone but there will at least be one person who is on your side and thinks what you did is good. And then I cried and it’s the best song in the whole show and possibly in all of broadway history in my opinion. Anyway this is a good moral because in professional and educational and social systems it’s all about what’s wrong and what’s right, who is wrong and who is right, what belief is wrong and what belief is right, but this song is defying all of that by saying well if all actions are driven by what people think is right and wrong and what was ok and what was not then everyone thinks what they would do is right and so all we can do is what we think is morally correct.

My final note is that this is definitely not for little kids despite being based on fairy tales unless you leave after the first act. In conclusion I believe Into the Woods is a beautiful play with great morals and characters and that anyone who sees it is bound to leave with a smile on their face and tears rolling down their cheeks. I think the play was very successful and professional and if that’s not correct then I must have slept through and had a dream about it.

Lead Photo: Anne Allgood, Sarah "SG" Garcia, Cayman Ilika, and Porscha Shaw. Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Criticism workshop at Glacier Middle School in Jessica Fishman's 6th Grade Language Arts classes, taught by Press Corps teaching artists Jordi Montes and Jay Chavez.

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