Maestro Berman and the ITW Orchestra
Posted by: Chromolume 11:58 pm EST 11/16/22

I've been on a rare trip to NYC this week and caught A Strange Loop and Into the Woods. Things to say about both shows, and I'll get there eventually. But right now one major topic is on my mind.

I've music directed Woods a number of times. Most recently at Emerson College this past April, with thankfully a complete orchestra in the pit. So I know this orchestration extremely well. And of course I have seen many productions of the show. BUT - listening to Rob Berman's take on the score tonight was, for me, a masterclass. The light touch he had with the music, and the pristine clean sound of that orchestra. Really amazing work. Clearly also he had a great rapport with the sound designer and the board op, because the balance between orchestra and cast was often so, so careful (in fact, there were times my "music director's ears" wanted to hear just a little more orchestra - but there was clearly a careful plan to keep things like incidental music in the background in order to put the focus on the cast), and the balance within the orchestra itself was spot on - Berman able to really highlight key moments from within the texture. If I *think* I know that orchestration so very well, Mr. Berman still showed me many beautiful things tonight that I hadn't known before.

I did find a few of the tempos daringly fast, but in general, the pacing of the score was so smooth (so appreciated) that nothing ever felt unduly rushed (just propelled), and although the show still clocked in somewhere around 2:45, it didn't feel long at all. (I'm sure we've all seen productions of the show that felt very very long lol.) It was a very sensitive but very exciting reading of the score. Possibly the best I've ever heard it, and I'm not a hyperbole kind of person.

I also appreciated some tiny but significant nods back to the original Broadway version of the score. The bell tone cue for "It Takes Two" back where it belongs (after "we," not literally before the first lyric), and the unfinished "No One Is Alone." And none of the other god awful revisions, many made for the 2002 revival, that all appear in the current rental version of the materials. (Even though I understand that's the edition of the score they're working off of.)

Bravo to each of those wonderful musicians, and bravo to to the Maestro.

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