Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Into the Woods

I'm a winner!! Last night, I won tickets to Shakespeare (actually, Sondheim) in the Park's production of "Into the Woods", a musical that I have loved since high school. It's a mash-up of fairytales, and what happens after they live happily ever after. I was the one, in grade school, that was already writing a script for what I called "Pocahontas 2: The Search for Flit," and a version of Little Red Riding Hood where the Narrator gets involved. Sondheim's musical is one that I was destined to love.

This particular production, originally staged at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in London, struck two amazing balances, very important for a restaging of a beloved show. First, the directors found a way to both remain faithful to the original production and find intriguing new innovations. To my ear, one which memorized the original score, nothing in the show was changed, yet they made the Narrator a little boy playing with his toys in the forest instead of an old man watching over his characters. This made for a very interesting twist in the second act when the characters start fighting with the narrator...which I won't spoil.

Another balance, one that the Public Theater seems to hit in many of their summer shows, is in the casting. Theatre nerds were titillated about Donna Murphy as the Witch, and giddy about Chip Zien as the Mysterious Man. Mr. Zien played the Baker in the original production, and his distinctive voice has been etched onto the collective theatre hivemind as that role. But the Baker and the Mysterious Man sing a duet near the end of the show, and to hear Mr. Zien in the other role, that was pure magic.

But fear not, those with other interests! Surely, you've seen a movie recently. Thus, presented for our pleasure, was Amy Adams, of Enchanted and The Fighter and Julie and Julia fame, as the Baker's Wife.

Oh, Public Theater, how well you have achieved what translators aspire to every day! A brilliant balance between fidelity and finding your own voice, a way to simultaneously appeal to the experts and the masses. Thanks for the showing us how possible it is.