One of the most emotionally potent and narratively cunning Broadway musicals ever produced, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods parlayed a weekend run in City Center’s “Encores!” series into a Broadway transfer at the St. James Theatre that, frustratingly, was originally booked for only eight weeks, but which has been subsequently extended to October 16.

Every production I’ve ever seen of this alternately frolicsome and tragic show has been brilliant, yet each iteration feels substantially different depending on the cultural context. The latest, stripped-down edition arrives a generation after the first revival, which in 2002 was shadowed by the stygian emanations from Ground Zero a few miles south. Seen today, the show unintentionally points up a little-discussed aspect of American...


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