They sing Agony in Into the Woods each night time and expertise pleasure every day


Gavin Creel instantly understood my obsession with the Stephen Sondheim track he sings each night time. It is a type of issues, mentioned the Tony-winning actor, who performs Cinderella’s prince in “Into the Woods.” There are a lot of occasions you hear a track and suppose, “Oh, I do know that.” After which I mentioned, “Oh, I actually do not know that.” There’s much more right here.

I used to be searching for far more in a current interview on the Kennedy Middle with Creel and Jason Forbach, his track accomplice in one in every of Sondheim’s funniest shows of lyrical wordplay, the comedy quantity Agony. I’ve at all times puzzled what it takes to create a basic comedy piece: What mixture of wit, exposition, and method ensures to maintain the viewers enthralled? How does an actor hold the fabric recent each night time? And is it potential to have the identical pleasure in efficiency as in watching and listening?

I’ve beloved Agony since I first heard it within the authentic Broadway manufacturing in 1987. And I particularly wished to discover it with the forged of the magical play Into the Woods, which is wrapping up its run on the Kennedy Middle Opera Home, quickly to journey to Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and past. I assume I used to be introspecting as I dissected the track with them: making an attempt to grasp how the blissful union of lyrics and notes might stick with me so meaningfully, for many years.

You may have so many riches to dip into,” defined Forbach, who performs Prince Rapunzel, the brother of Krills’ character. That is how one can make 100 choices in every row.

I wished to listen to about this election. How songwriters can translate a plot or emotional revelation into 32 bars of music is likely one of the hallmarks of musical theater greatness. And “Agony” is a superb instance of surprising heights to which inventive genius can take us.

Tune double decker intelligence. In Act 1, the place Sondheim and author James Lapine imbue the fairy-tale characters with city neuroses, the 2 princes meet within the woods for a hyperbolic lament about their timeless, pure-hearted mission: the supremely selfless (learn: self-aggrandizing) activity of rescuing damsels in misery. And, oh, how tragic it’s to come across so many obstacles in the best way of finishing the work!

Jason Forbach and Gavin Creel play the princes within the Broadway manufacturing of Into the Woods on the Kennedy Middle by way of March 19. (Video: “Into the Woods”)

Agony, they sing, They educate all tortures. What’s so intriguing or half as exhausting because the unattainable?

So many agits, and so many inner rhymes! In Act 2, they repeat the track, this time because the husbands of two of those women, Rapunzel and Cinderella. And we be taught that they have not modified in any respect. Burdened by marital obligations, they uncover their existential hangover: an irresistible fairy-tale need to seek out different women to save lots of.

Agony, they sing now that princes ought to cry! At all times in captivity virtually one thing or one thing is sleeping. The sly reference to the dream has full-blown comedian impact within the reprise, because it turns into clear that the princes now want to pursue two different storybook characters, Sleeping Magnificence and Snow White.

The track is the one alternative the princes get in Into the Woods to outline sibling relationships and rivalries. The lyrics succinctly and whimsically reveal their aggressive essence; the quantity gives a compelling portrait of how true brothers typically behave, supporting one another one minute and competing to win the sport the subsequent. (Agony! Much more painful than yours, Prince Rapunzel sings at one level, noting that getting access to her lover includes climbing her hair. When she’d include you if solely there was a door.)

Creel has been taking part in Cinderella’s Prince (and the Wolf That Devours Little Crimson Using Hood) since director Lear de Besson’s revival, which opened final yr off-Broadway at Metropolis Facilities Encores! collection after which moved to Broadway. Forbach was an understudy earlier than being promoted to the position of Prince Rapunzel for the touring manufacturing. Their all-important crowd-pleasing duet solely works in the event that they’re strictly in sync, technically and temperamentally. So, in a way, this quantity implies a quasi-fraternal degree of dedication.

After its efficiency, Forbach mentioned, the 2 cross paths backstage for a posthumous second. They have been like, “Oh my God, this or that labored.” And it did not work. And I am going to repair it subsequent time. And I apologize, he mentioned. It is a enjoyable, truly brotherly check-in to see how others are doing, what did not land, and what might have been higher. What I actually admire about Gavin is that there’s at all times a way of thorough navigation, as if you’re by no means on the finish of the map.

Creel famous that he carried out The Agony with various actors who alternated in productions for a very long time, together with Joshua Henry and Andy Carle. I had the pleasure of coping with so many various folks, he mentioned. But additionally, finally, my prince is completely different from each particular person throughout from me. As a result of it is all about relationships.

And in regards to the phrases. In Agony, the princes step on one another, complement one another’s ideas and compete for the sharpest joke. That is an thrilling alpha vs alpha recreation. Throughout the reprise, Cinderella’s Prince’s grievance in regards to the 100-foot-deep thickets of brambles defending Sleeping Magnificence results in an disagreeable musical change:

Prince Cinderella: If it weren’t for the thicket

Prince Rapunzel: The thickets aren’t a trick. Is it thick?

Prince Cinderella: She is the fattest.

Prince Rapunzel: the quickest is to take him aside with a stick.

Prince Cinderella: Sure, however not even one shot. That is my blood enterprise.

Prince Rapunzel: Nicely, it is sick!

(The subsequent line is Prince Cinderella’s quip in regards to the seven dwarfs defending Snow White, who’s being sought by Prince Rapunzel. The strains, written 4 many years in the past, now appear to be frivolities about dwarfism; in any case, the very best joke is that the princes are quarreling on learn how to pronounce gnomes.)

Agony as a verbal duel and as a crew work takes its toll even on digital tempos. I used to be fascinated with this final night time as a result of we have been strolling by [Potomac] River and all these crew groups have been there, Forbach mentioned. Marked tempo à la barcarola, the track of the Venetian boatmen. So the accompaniment is a rocking forwards and backwards. It is like waves, rhythm, you want two oars. It would not work except the 2 of us are in sync.

The viewers will get a kick out of how the princes attempt to showcase one another, however Creel has come to see the act as a gathering of minds relatively than a conflict of wills. The comparability of the princes’ notes because the track progresses creates a mutual sympathy. I by no means see it as a contest anymore, he mentioned. Oh, torture! This there may be torture for you! At that second, it isn’t No, I! It is horrible. His the agony.

For Forbach, trusting the emotional paths that Sondheim painstakingly lays out in The Agony made him higher on the job. Hell take a line and I already know my subsequent line as a result of the rhyme is so fantastically excellent, he mentioned. So it taught me the toughest lesson I needed to be taught as an actor, which is that it is really easy to need to be in management and be tremendous ready, not make errors, not embarrass your self in entrance of 1000’s of individuals.

However primarily what audiences relate to most is the relaxed sense of life, that issues can go flawed or be good or lovely. This present taught me learn how to be human not solely on stage but in addition in actual life.

Nothing about it sounds painful.

To the forest, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, guide by James Lapine. Directed by Lear de Bessonet. By way of Sunday on the John F. Kennedy Middle for the Performing Arts.

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