By Ben Rimalower
21 Sep 2013
The original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods was preserved for posterity in a video so perfectly satisfying as to render the Broadway cast album almost pointless. Indeed, why listen to what you can watch in living color? Moreover, the definitive performances by the top-to-bottom stellar original cast are so permanently etched in the public consciousness, it's proven exceedingly difficult for other actors to make an impression in subsequent productions, particularly in the case of Joanna Gleason's Tony-winning triumph as the Baker's Wife, something of a landmark in the world of Sondheim musicals, and, in a certain sense, all contemporary culture. You could argue Gleason's Baker's Wife was "Seinfeld" before there was "Seinfeld."
If I sound biased, it's because I am. There are those who balk at the dramaturgy of Into the Woods, but it is Sondheim's most accessible musical and offered a generation a way into the work of the master, largely due to the ubiquity of this excellent record. I count myself a member of that generation and have high hopes for what the forthcoming film adaption will do for an even wider audience. It's nice to know, regardless of the success of the film, there will always be this treasure.