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This is an extreme Into the Woods, where the comedy is over the top and the dramatic parts go straight for your gut. In Amanda Dehnert’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s fairy-tale mash-up, Jack is manic, Jack’s mom is loopy, Cinderella’s stepsisters’ wear harajuku dresses and her prince has Billy Idol hair.
Some of it is charming, such as the bits of audience participation, and some of it is slapdash, like the opening framing device that posits the show as a concert reading before the actors get sucked into the magic (or so it seems). And why is Cinderella walking when she’s supposed to be rushing away from the prince and getting stuck on the palace steps? (Earlier this year, San Diego’s Old Globe presented a similarly scrappy, pared-down, let’s-put-on-a-show–style version that was more consistent in its execution.)
Despite the production’s frayed edges, the masterful score mixes Sondheim’s trademark cynicism with whimsy and humor, and audiences might find it fun to compare the show to the more streamlined film version coming out on Christmas. Plus, pushing toward extremes can lead to some welcome inventions: During some songs, the lights along the sides of the house pulse with color, and at one point the choreography boils over with pop culture references that could have felt annoyingly anachronistic but more likely will make you giddy.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; through Dec. 21. (310) 746-4000, thewallis.org.