Sondheim in the Park

7.5.2012

By Mark Peikert

'Into the Woods' hits Central Park -- just as we like it.

Photo of Shakespeare in the Park: Joseph Moran

Cruising in Central Park will be a little easier this year, when Shakespeare in the Park's home, the Delacorte Theater, celebrates its 50th anniversary with a production of Into the Woods.

The Stephen Sondheim musical -- a skewed take on classic fairytales -- has incited a frenzy among theatergoers excited by the chance to see his most accessible show with a star-studded cast.

The company’s bold-faced names include Amy Adams, Denis O’Hare, and Donna Murphy, as well as up-and-comers Gideon Glick and Jessie Mueller. Show queens will undoubtedly be flocking to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater for the entirety of the production’s monthlong run -- but there are more than just fairytales happening here.

“Doing Sondheim in the park is a way of saying that Sondheim is as much a master of his world as Shakespeare is of his,” says Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, who based this production on one from London at the behest of Sondheim himself.

And what a world it is! A filmed version of the Broadway production, featuring the original cast, acted as an entrée into the domain of musicals for many a young performer.

Among its young fans was Glick, who now finds himself playing Jack, of “and the Beanstalk” fame.

“I think there was a time when I watched it every week,” he recalls. His enthusiasm for the story hasn’t waned. “It’s a dream come true to be in the Delacorte, to be in a Sondheim show,” he says.

Glick is making his Shakespeare in the Park debut, but Donna Murphy is returning home. As the Witch, Murphy will be back on the Delacorte stage for the first time since The Mystery of Edwin Drood premiered there in 1985. A few years later, Murphy circled a few roles in the Broadway production of Into the Woods -- including the Witch, which eventually went to Bernadette Peters -- before going on to win two Tony awards and making a name for herself as one of the premier singing actresses of her generation.

“I’ve been asked to do a couple of Shakespeare in the Parks, and I haven’t been available,” she says. “And so now I’m back doing a musical in the park! It’s a great, great opportunity, and I feel like this production has the potential to be something really exciting.”

Into the Woods opens July 23 at the Delacorte Theater in Manhattan.

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