I just watched The Woodsman on Broadway HD and wow! It. Is. Stunning. If you get a chance to watch it, do. The Woodsman tells the origin story (or a version of the origin story) of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. The staging in beautiful and the use of puppets incredible. It’s done so simply but also so intricately.
The set is quite simple and moved around by the actors. There is a single violin player on stage playing throughout while the performers provide other sound effects, for example clapping to indicate the sound of chopping wood and whistling for birdsong.
The lighting design is beautiful, with the added use of handheld flashlights throughout to great effect. They flashlights are used as an indication of magic and the simple act of shining them on a pair of sparkly shoes shows the power of the slippers. There is also a beautiful moment where flashlights are used as fireflies.
There is no dialogue in the piece, except at the beginning which sets up the story and the location, and one other particular moment. Even so everything, every emotion and thought, is conveyed so clearly through the actions, the sounds, both man-made and from the violin. Even through the puppets. Instrumental and vocal music help to set the scene and the mood and emotion.
Puppets are used in a variety of ways including for the Witch, the Woodsman (once he’s been turned to tin), a very intricate, multi-part tiger, and some very effective crows. Some of the puppets require only one person but some are multi-person use puppets. All are amazing to watch.
It’s great that there are filmed productions like this. Ones that show the variety of what theatre can be and do. I’m a sucker for the traditional musical but I also love to see different types of productions like this and I love that things like BroadwayHD are making these recordings available and more accessible. If you get a chance to watch this production, I would highly recommend it!