Into the Woods

Though it doesn't capitalize on weighty themes, the play's music is worthwhile


Through Jan. 7

Tickets are $20-54

(650) 903-6000


Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield (at Kellogg), Palo Alto

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Peculiar woods lure familiar characters away from their dreariness to toy with magic and improve their lives. A Baker, his Wife, two Princes charming, Jack (of the lucky beanstalk), Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, a Witch, a Wolf, and a Mysterious Man are pawns in this singular retelling of feuding fairy tales. After coincidence and mishap, you can almost taste the happy endings, as granted wishes seem well within reach. If you're partial to blissful finales or musicals under two hours, leave at intermission: The second act of this three-hour journey reveals revenge, adultery, failure, and death as consequences for self-centered choices made in pursuing shallow dreams. Unfortunately, the work bypasses opportunities to capitalize, emotionally, on these weighty themes. Spirited musical numbers and too-bright costumes surround the play in a cartoonish atmosphere, but the entire cast sings beautifully; the Witch (Thursday Farrar) and the Baker's Wife (Christiane Noll) give the strongest all-around performances. The maneuvering of Jack's cow, Milky White (Bill Olson), is impressive and especially delightful for kids. Between the professional (and subterranean) orchestra and Stephen Sondheim's gift for crafting music that misbehaves in a frenzy of witty, syncopated rhythms, the tunes alone are worth the ticket.

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