Into the Woods is a two-dimensional musical of characters we were told when we were kids. Combining these characters in one story and giving them a bit of heart, then it unfolds and webs as they journey to the woods. And after having their wishes granted, major glitches surfaced. I first watched the recorded broadway musical when I was in college and kept a copy until now. The characters, or rather caricatures are so distinct from each other and each has their own agenda to fulfill. Watching the dvd was like reading a graphic novel until they entered the woods where everything became three dimensional.
Maybe it was a mistake that I got to watch the filmed stage version of Into the Woods before I got to watch the stage version of New Voice. Then again, who can actually resist Bernadette Peters? Lyn Sherman's version of the much coveted role of the Witch was a breath of fresh air. Although I sure do hope she does get a lot of it (air, I mean) before singing the difficult lines of Sondheim. One crisp singer would be Crisel Consunji as the hooded little girl. Im just not sure about the height though, she seemed taller than the baker's wife Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who in the other hand shone on the second act. Bits and units all cut and chopped perfectly.
Amazingly, this is one company of tall people, Cinderella is not cinder at all. Despite that fact, Cathy Azansa managed to be this wishful ingenue who grew 20 years older in the second act. Remarkable performances would be Juaqui Valdez who was able to put humanity in the two dimensional character Jack (as in Jack and the Beanstalk) and Tommy Abuel who on the other hand, sans the singing, remained to be as mysterious as his role's name yet truthful and most intense among the rest. Remarkable improvement is needed for the Grandmother who can do some exercise in enunciation as understanding her lines seated from the audience area is reduced to nil. Also, I am not sure if the very 'Filipino' (translated to-- Lucita Soriano) attack on the role of Jack's mother worked making the whole thing 3D. Generally, I will not call the the performance fantastic as it can still be pushed to the edge because you know that there is a wealth of talent in the cast.
A friend warned me about the set. The warning was apt. Minimal and austere, the woods became a printed tarp on a wall with doors. The play opened with this claustrophobic feeling that the actors might just bump into each other in the first scene. The thrill to the journey did not become as exciting as the stage did not change into this magical forest. But as I said, I was aptly warned. I was not disappointed. It was with the costumes that I was not warned. I was not sure if they are scrimping on budget or they just want to use what they already have in their closets. Unforgivably, the lights, however minimal with no special effects, were not seamlessly cued.
Into the Woods is a social satire equipped with splotches of wit. It brings one questioning about what was read to us and about our lives right now. It is a reaction to stories we have memorized (especially our generation) and telling the story after the 'everafter'. Exposing the gore and the uncouth with desires to point out the flaws of these children stories, and yes, about the flaws that we do have after we go out of the theatre. New Voice Company's Into the Woods is not free from flaws. In fact, there is quite a number of them that even none-theatre goers can see immediately. Yet, the musical is still worth seeing.