Reviews


INTO THE WOODS
The Hypocrites at the Mercury Theater

toc imageTime Out Review
Kris Vire
Time Out Rating: stars image Wed Feb 12 2014

“Careful the things you say,” advises Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1987 fairy tale for adults. “Children will listen.” And there’s much in the material—which puts Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack of beanstalk fame and Little Red Riding Hood in the same enchanted forest as a newly invented baker and his wife—that’s meant to tap into modern mores and anxieties about parent-child relationships and stories with grayscale morals.

A recent staging at New York’s Public Theater, inspired by a 2010 London production, toyed with the kid-lit implications by making the play’s Narrator a child actor. Director Geoff Button’s new Hypocrites production plays the kid card in a different way. The Mercury Theater’s stage is decked out like Romper Room as we enter the theater, William Boles’s set covered in childlike chalk drawings of happy houses and smiley-faced suns.

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Chicago Sun Times- Hedy Weiss

"...The clever concept animating The Hypocrites' production of "Into the Woods," the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical that elaborately interweaves the quests of a slew of classic fairy tale characters, is clear from the moment you enter the Mercury Theater Chicago. The stage, featuring a beguilingly naive set by William Boles, suggests the playground of a top-notch arts magnet school, with brightly chalked-up walls, a slide, chairs in primary colors, a plastic train set, and toy chests full of costume pieces. And when it's time for the characters to travel into the often dangerous, confusing woods, the trees appear in full bloom with bungee cord branches laced with balloons."

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Chicago Reader- Tony Adler

"...Yet the visual motif does nothing to deepen the theme; more often than not, it just gets in the way. A good thing, then, that the production is so strong on the fundamentals. Look past the bungees (as well as some other cutesy gestures) and you'll see ten talented, personable actors perform the hell out of a great work of theatrical art, supported by a sharp offstage band."

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NewCity Chicago- Brian Hieggelke

"...The Hypocrites' "Into the Woods" is a wonder on its own: at once a faithful interpretation of Sondheim and James Lapine's beloved classic-with some terrific voices and a small but sturdy cohort of behind-the-scenes musicians-that never loses sight of the Hypocrites' signature sense of humor. The musical opens with the cast lollygagging on a stage set created by William Boles to look like a preschool classroom, a perfectly reasonable launching point for a story that mashes up some of the Brothers Grimm's finest, from Jack and the Beanstalk to Little Red Riding Hood to Cinderella."

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ShowBizChicago - Michael J. Roberts

"...Any shortcomings of this production are alleviated by Mr. Button’s exceptional casting of ten, each finding their own voice within Sondheim’s tricky cadences along with Matt Deitchman’s spot-on musical direction.   Aubrey McGrath’s skillful and thrilling interpretation of “Giants In The Sky” rivals any cast recorded version; Will Skrip and Michael Brown are perfectly suited as the Brothers Charming as their “Agony” can surely be alleviated by being cast in a Corbin Fisher video; Sarah Bockel’s gorgeous and belty soprano makes her Cinderella less vulnerable than most which makes me like her character interpretation all the more; Hillary Marren’s commanding Witch will haunt you long after you leave the theatre and yes, she knocks “Children Will Listen” out of the stratosphere."

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Chicago Theatre Addict - Robert Bullen

"...Into the Woods is one of those shows that feels like a comfortable, old friend. I basically grew up on a well-worn VHS of the original Broadway production, which felt like a work so tailor-made to the remarkable original ensemble cast, featuring stand-out performances by Johanna Gleason (who won a Tony for her work) and Bernadette Peters, that woe to anyone who attempted to recreate the magic."

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Chicago On the Aisle - Lawrence B. Johnson

"...The trick of "Into the Woods" is giving wings to the more serious, yet also darkly funny, drama of Act II. It is amid this epidemic of personal misery that director Button makes his real mark. Here the cast breaks from earlier farce to become characters struggling with punctured dreams and disillusionment, but who rally together in the face of a greater concern - indeed, a common enemy, a Giant that threatens their entire way of life, Prince and everyman alike. To the shared credit of Button and music director Matt Deitchman, the turning events only draw the viewer deeper into the woods."

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Stage and Cinema - Erika Mikkalo

"...The cast performs admirably, with Sarah Bockel bringing both knock-out vocals and tangible sorrow to the roles of Cinderella and Rapunzel. Aubrey McGrath's Jack is a lovable young rube, Allison Hendrix as the Baker's Wife demonstrates significant comic skill and Joel Ewing's everyman Baker convincingly oscillates between being resolute and perplexed. I wish...that the staging were not so uneven, which would have allowed them to more fully display their skills."

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Chicago Stage Standard - David Zak

"...Into The Woods clocks in at nearly three hours. I hope that someday we will have a slimmer version akin to the shortened and thus improved The Color Purple heading back to Broadway now. In the last several decades, many have done battle to make the second act as entertaining as the first which flies by. But the fact that Button comes as close as he does to creating a total triumph here is testament to his creative team's skill, determination, and pluck."

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Around The Town Chicago - Alan Bresloff

"...The production is one where we do not see the musicians under the direction of Matt Deitchman who amazingly uses his four musicians to make the music come alive and not drown out the actors on stage and the choreography ( Katie Spelman) and fight Choreography ( Alex Tey) work to perfection as they move about the intimate Mercury stage. Special kudos to Eleanor Kahn, for her prop design and the undertaking of finding so many items as well as making sure they were where they needed to be at all times. With a zany bunch like the- Hypocrites, that could be a tough assignment."

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Chicago Theatre Review - Peter Thomas Ricci

"...And naturally, kudos must go to Geoff Button for his direction, which manages to hold all those disparate elements together; you almost wait for something to go wrong in such a production, but it’s a testament to The Hypocrites skill that such scenarios never play out."

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Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Dan Zeff

"...The Hypocrites have a reputation as one of Chicagoland's most adventurous and edgy acting companies. A revival of a Broadway musical like "Into the Woods," however offbeat the show may be, doesn't exactly fit the Hypocrites resume. But they come through like they were a musical theater entity, meeting and conquering the demands of the Sondheim vehicle as though they were to the manner born. "Into the Woods" is not my favorite Sondheim musical (could the Hypocrites be talked into reviving his classic "Company"?), but this presentation is glorious."

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