A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.
Five minutes into this conglomeration of fairy tales and I was ready to run for the border. It briefly appeared as though Little Red Riding Hood (Lisa Helmi Johanson) had a beanstalk and Jack (Jack Mulryan) was being chased by the Big Bad Wolf (Anthony Chatmon II), and it was messing with my head. Luckily, the more I sat, the more I was inclined to believe they were actually going somewhere with the plot, and the decision that I made to see it through was a very good one. As the larger than life imagery and the talented cast began to prove itself worthy of a second chance, I began to appreciate how this acclaimed, Tony Award-Winning flip-of-the script musical became New York’s surprise hit of the season. Directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld’s cleverly-adapted production is chock full of subdued humor and exaggerated silliness that works itself through periods of vivid imagination and stark reality.
The plethora of stories that are intertwined, revolve around a Baker (Evan Harrington) and his wife (Eleasha Gamble) who are childless due to a curse the witch (Vanessa Reseland) has put on them because of her own childbirth misfortune. The witch herself has been cursed and she bargains with all who come in contact with her in order to make amends with the people she has mistreated in her life. The deal she makes with the couple will restore the wife’s ability to bear children and restore the witch to her original stature. The husband must go into the woods and gather items relative to nursery rhymes such as Cinderella (Laurie Veldheer), Little Red Riding Hood/Rapunzel (Lisa Helmi Johanson) and Jack And The Beanstalk (Jack Mulryan). The task appears to be more daunting as he develops a guilt complex about the way he retrieves some of the items. Soon he and his wife are at odds with each other as the struggle to achieve the goal becomes more difficult. In what seems to be the end and everyone gets what they want, there is an ironic twist of fate that turns the entire second half into a surprising contest of wits that is unmatched in comparison to modern-day adventures with side effects.
The entire production hinges on the ability to imagine the unimaginable and to replace dreams and wishes in order to achieve a lifetime of joy with a certain amount of responsibility. While it is convoluted at times, there is a real message of hope that is the foundation of its success. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the Book by James Lapine, this collaboration is a unique and successful production that is proven entertainment that all ages can appreciate. The stellar cast makes up for any shortcomings in the script and the humorous nature of it all makes the one hundred and sixty minutes of showtime worth every penny. Enjoy!
Now playing at the Winspear Opera House May 16 – 28