Into the Woods
REVIEW by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES-- The New York-bound production of the James Lapine- Stephen Sondheim musical INTO THE WOODS is a considerable improvement over the last version of the show which played (in 1989) at the Ahmanson. It is not only better acted and sung, it looks and moves better as well, thanks to Lapine's direction and Douglas Schmidt's magical set. Lighting and sound (Brian MacDevitt & Dan Moses Schreier, respectively) make important contributions too. The musical's main flaw is that it tries to
tell too many stories--Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack and the
Beanstalk, Rapunzel, plus an unfamiliar one about a childless baker and
his wife. The result is a 3-hour show which becomes thin and repetitive
over the long haul. Sparkling performances, though, especially by Vanessa Williams as The Witch, John McMartin as The Narrator, Melissa Dye as Rapunzel, Stephen DeRosa & Kerry O'Malley as two bakers, and Chad
Kimball as the cow, Milky-White, more than balance this negative. It doesn't hurt, either, that Sondheim has written a lot of superb music. (Through March 24 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-628-2772).