“Into The Woods” was “a huge smash hit” when it opened on Broadway in 1987, we’re told in the ten-minute video below, the latest from the “Encores! Inside the Revival.”
Given that the video features a half dozen Broadway stars, including Laura Benanti and Ruthie Ann Miles, singing snippets from Sondheim’s score, it’s hard to imagine anybody objecting that this fourth episode veers from the original conception of this online series from New York City Center. When it began last November, the idea was for contemporary artists to reintroduce little-known musicals of the past (like the 1948 Alan Jay Lerner/Kurt Weill musical “Love Life”) and/or reimagine them (Billy Porter offering his take on “The Life,” the 1997 musical that featured a Black cast but a white creative team.) In this new video instead, Encores! new artistic director Lear deBessonet offers a preview of a forthcoming stage revival of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical — and a preview of the changes in the Encores! stage series overall.
New York City Center’s Encores! began in 1994 as a way to restage faded musicals, most of which had wonderful scores but problematic librettos.
When theaters reopen, deBessonet tells us, “every year we will still do one glorious hidden gem. We will also do one show brought forward by a particular artist with a point of view on that show. And then lastly, we will do this new annual tradition of one great community celebration of an iconic musical.”
The hidden gems align with Encores! original mission. The “particular take” sounds like a stage version of the original conception of the current online series. And the great community celebration reflects deBessonet’s work each summer on the Public Works project at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, in which New Yorkers from community groups in all five boroughs are incorporated in the production alongside the professional performers.
The plan for “Into The Woods” is to reflect the spread of its popularity to “junior” and “senior” productions — casts with children and with elders. “My dreams,” deBessonet says, “is to do a finale with all three generations on stage at City Center and really transform the whole space.”