Saturday, January 23, 2016

into the Asian woods

So one of my regular event e-mails from Stanford informs me that something called the Asian American Theater Project, which has been around for years but which I'd never heard of before, is putting on Into the Woods, probably my favorite post-1970 musical. I went last night (Friday); there's two more performances today if anyone local is interested, which I'd recommend as it was a terrific performance. It was reassuring to have bought my ticket in advance, because it was roiling chaos at the auditorium before showtime.

The advertising implied a deeply Asian rethinking of the show, but the sets and costumes were pretty basic - the sfx were all sound effects and miming - and the only thing I could detect that was Asian about the show was that about half the cast were of that ancestry. It did draw on a much deeper talent pool than other Stanford musical productions I've seen, and would have done credit to any local theater group. I knew it'd work from the impeccable timing in the opening number alone, and Teyonna Jarman's turn as the Witch just wowed the show with professional confidence and stage presence. Nathan Large as the first prince showed brilliantly comic arrogance, and several other players really stepped up for their big solos. But everyone was at least adequate.

The only flaws were that some of the players' speech wasn't clear, despite everyone wearing telephone operator microphones, and that, though the comic side was charmingly done, the dramatic thread sometimes got a little lost during the darker scenes of Act II. Or maybe everyone was just getting a little tired out, for they gave their all for a 3-hour show, and as the man (yes, the man) playing the mute role of the cow promised in the cast bios that he'd do, they milked their roles for all they were worth.

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