"Little Miss Sunshine" to be made into musical, Finn as composer


Yet another movie-turned-musical (e.g., The Producers, Shrek, The Wedding Singer, Billy Elliot, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, 9 to 5, etc.) to be added to the list: Little Miss Sunshine.

This in-the-works musical will make it’s debut next winter at the La Jolla Playhouse.  The 2006 Oscar-nominated, Sundance hit about a lovably dysfunctional family has signed up composer/lyricist William Finn (25th Annual Spelling Bee, Falsettos, New Brain) and book-writer James Lapine (Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Passion). 

With such proven talent, this has the making of a hugely-popular hit.  True, the movie’s dark humor can be quite outrageous, but Finn thrives on such edginess.  And Lapine and Finn have shown that they can play-well-with-each-other through their award-winning collaboration – The 25th-Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Truth be told, with Chicago’s known affinity for new plays, we seem like a much better fit for just such a debut.  But being that Lapine has worked with La Jolla on previous premiers, it makes sense that they landed the gig.



REVIEW: Into the Woods (Porchlight Music Theatre)

Enchanted cast serves up skewered storybook characters

 Jeny Wasilewski as Little Red Ridinghood, Henry Michael Odum as Narrator, Steve Best as The Baker

Porchlight Music Theatre presents
Into the Woods
Book by James Lapine
Music/Lyrics by
Stephen Sondheim 
Directed by
L. Walter Stearns
Music Direction by Eugene Dizon
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through May 30th | tickets: $38 | more info

By Katy Walsh

What happens after happily everafter? What is next after Cinderella gets married, Jack kills the giant, Rapunzel has short hair? Porchlight Music Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical, Into The Woods. The baker learns his witch-of-a neighbor has cursed him with infertility. To break the barren spell, the baker is instructed by the  Rachel Quinn as Cinderellawitch to produce a red cape, golden slipper, white cow and blonde hair strands. He and his wife go into the woods to secure the hex-breaking ingredients. Among the trees, they find storybook characters struggling with their own predetermined storybook ending. Into The Woods intersects multiple fairytale classics to create non-traditional ever-afters.

The set designed by Ian Zywica establishes the woods location. Although the five piece orchestra is visibly on stage, they vanish just beyond a hill and bramble. Center stage is a large full moon-shaped screen doubling as forest projections and shadowboxing scenes (designed by Liviu Pasare). The multi-media effect adds a mystical quality for dead people speaking or being regurgitated. Although simplistic, it has all the makings for a magical forest for close encounters of the fable kind.

Under the direction of Artistic Director L. Walter Stearns, the talented ensemble cast are enchanting(!). Bethany Thomas (witch) is spellbindingly marvelous belting out the punch line and song. Her rendition of “Children Will Listen” is an inspiring memorable moment. With exaggerated prince-like debonair, Cameron Brune and William Travis Taylor are hilarious leaping in and out of scenes. Their double duet of “Agony” is suave buffoonery, as Taylor quips, “I was taught to be charming not sincere.” Although sometimes overpowered by the band, Jeny Wasilewski (Red Riding Hood) sings and skips with spunky determination. Channeling Amy Adams’ “Enchanted” performance, Rachel Quinn (Cinderella) is a wistful and underwhelmed target of the prince’s affection. Steve Best and Brianna Borger (Baker/Baker’s Wife) sing an amusing duet of marital expectations. The large cast adds harmonious voice to the finale… both of them.

Cameron Brune as Rapunzel's Prince and William Travis Taylor as Cinderella's Prince Cameron Brune as The Wolf and Jeny Wasilewski as Little Red Ridinghood
Henry Michael Odum as Mysterious Man Steve Best as The Baker and Brianna Borger as The Baker's Wife Rachel Quinn as Cinderella and Jeny Wasilewski as Little Red Ridinghood

Initially, Into The Woods is a clever and witty flashback to childhood stories. In a ninety minute first act, playwright James Lapine succinctly intertwines various fairytales with additions of each character’s back story. The happily-ever-after finale is amusing, satisfying and surprising. The projected words “to be continued” initiates a program book revisit. Apparently, something does happens after ‘happily ever after.’ Act II starts where the traditional fairytale ends. The results are less than whimsical with a giant’s village domination, philandering spouses, and serial killing. It’s a harsh twist for following your dream. Sure, there are adult lessons to be learned about the consequences of pursuing your heart’s desire. It’s called reality. I prefer to keep my childhood heroes in a perpetual state of Act I make believe.

Rating: ★★★


Kristen Leia Freilich as Jack's Mother and Scott J. Sumerak as Jack Bethany Thomas as The Witch


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Sunday Night Sondheim: Agony (from Into The Woods)


YouTube video – “Agony”

“Agony” from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

This recording is from October 2006 at Greenville Little Theatre in Greenville, NC – Will Ragland as Cinderella’s prince, and Peter Simms as Rapunzel’s prince.

NOTE: I have to say this is the most beautiful set I’ve ever seen for this show.  Well done Greenville!

Sunday Night Sondheim: Giants in the Sky (from Into the Woods)

Giants in The Sky”, sung by Jack in Steven Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical Into The Woods.


This video’s assorted comments on YouTube:

Omg I know, I was soooo ticked off because the principle at our school wouldn’t let us do the second act!! I was like "Well, what’s the point in doing it??"

here’s a response to the above comment.  I tend to agree, though not “eternally” 🙂

His voice is awesome. I love this Bernadette Peter’s version. And to all you…people… who do this for your high school musical, if it ends happily, you fail. I will eternally hate you. Ending it at the first act is like spitting on Sondheim’s Genius!!! I hate you

And my favorite comment of all:

My sister was the cow in ours school’s show. best damn cow ever in my opinion

Sunday Night Sondheim: Act I, Part 1 of “Into The Woods”

Into The Woods, Act I, Part 1

Starring: Chip Zien- Baker, Joanna Gleason- Baker’s Wife, Bernadette Peters- Witch, Tom Aldredge- Narrator/Mysterious Man, Kim Crosby- Cinderella, Ben Wright- Jack, Danielle Ferland- Little Red, Robert Westenberg- Cinderella’s Prince, Pamela Winslow- Rapunzel, Chuck Wagner- Rapunzel’s Prince

Sunday Night Sondheim: “Hello, Little Girl” from London cast of “Into The Woods”

Here’s the original London Cast featuring Clive Carter and Tessa Burbridge singing “Hello Little Girl” from Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods on the Wogan TV show (which explains why the set looks so cheap!).



Here’s some entertaining comments from the YouTube posting:

Comment: The only thing I like about this performance is the wolf head!

Reply: Really? Because it scares the CRAP out of me…

Reply: Same here! It was creeping me out the whole time. And is it just me, or does the wolf look like he should be holding a wand or pulling a rabbit out of his hat or something? I couldn’t help thinking of a magician. A scary wolf-headed magician….oooh…

Sunday Night Sondheim: “Children Will Listen” sung by Bernadette Peters

What can I say, Bernadette rules the universe.