Into the Woods
Photos and text by Jeannie Lieberman
The latest rage on stage and
screen had its first of this season’s revivals at the Pines!
The audiences at White Hall who
were fortunate enough to see the Pines Arts Projects semi professional end of
season production of Into the Woods (though it always seems totally
professional thanks to the expert efforts of the local cast and director) are
privileged to have a leg up (pun?) on the just opened mega musical movie
and the upcoming off Broadway production now previewing for a January 22
opening, a ten-actor/one-piano production which might seem closer to the
intimate production seen at the Pines.
They will know the score (a major
feat for a Sondheim opus) and have a clear(er) take on the convoluted story.
All is not well Stephen
Sondheim’s cynical, iconoclastic rendition of what happens after “Happily Ever
After” in those happy little nursery rhymes we learn as children. Sondheim
joyfully and typically turns everything dark.
Indeed one wonders what guides
the project’s choice of musicals, from chirpy Guys & Dolls, to dark Falsettos,
to cheery Hello, Dolly to the very dark Into the Woods. Whatever
the challenge the Pines players and their import professionals seem never fazed
by the task at hand.
Did the current theater season have any effect on president of the arts project, and
one of its leading actors, Steven Allen Black’s decision to choose it?
A question not asked in the post
performance interview I had with him: Labor Day weekend
Q A far cry from hello dolly or
guys & dolls, is this a trend?
A: No trend. We have lists
of shows we would like to present. In this case, with the movie coming out in
December and the Roundabout production scheduled for next year, this was the
perfect time to mount it.
Q: what criteria do you use in
making the choice?
A The show has a gorgeous
score and a great book. We like to choose different type of projects. You can't
do DOLLY every year.
Q How did the cast manage
all those lyrics and difficult score?
rehearsed the music for 2 weeks straight before we put the show up on its feet.
You need that time to really learn Sondheim's intricate score
Q: It is difficult to
imagine that the golden voiced, buff Prince (Cinderella's) is not actor's
Bell (Cinderella's Prince) is not Equity. He was operatically trained. Q:
What is keeping LaFontaine from following a show biz career?
A: You would have to ask
Q was the stage deeper for Dolly?
A Dolly had a half moon
bump out plus the runway. Woods used the stage as originally designed
(26' x 20'). We were able to get the 17 cast members and the 11-piece
orchestra all onstage with the set. It was a clever collaboration on
Every property we look at has to
be able to fit on our stage and have roles available for Islanders to
Q: The Lichtensteins missed the
production - first time in how many years?
A: Jack didn't miss the production -- he was our pre-show announcer
and performed the duty live at the Saturday performance.
Q: Do you do any theater in
A: I mainly do TV work
during the winter, but I am always looking for my next theatre project. I am a
very specific type, so parts are few and far between right now (at least until
I become that "old man").
Q You certainly have progressed
from juvenile, soooo convincing and sincere as the Baker
Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales
in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red
Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel-all tied together by an
original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and
their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.
The brilliant ensemble, under the expertise of Music Director
Lance Cruce and Director Jason Blitman, vividly created characters, now showing
their “other” side; continually meet up with each other in new
combinations on their journey through the woods.
Jack who wishes that his cow Milky-White would
give more milk, Cinderella who wishes to go to the ball, and Little Red Riding
Hood who wishes to visit her grandmother. An added linking fable created by
Lapine features the childless Baker and his Wife, cursed by the neighboring
Wicked Witch (whose “daughter” Rapunzel is kept in an aerie in the highest
tree). In order to obtain their wish, they must acquire the cow as white as
milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as
pure as gold before the chime of midnight in three days’ time, which draws all
of the other stories together. By the end of Act One, as we all know from the
fairy tales, all will have accomplished their wishes – or think they have.
In the second act, the outcome is that no one
has lived happily ever after and all are now wishing for yet other things. When
the Wife of the Giant that Jack has killed arrives to demand that they give up
the killer of her husband, her appearance necessitates another round of quests
into the wood. After a series of dark events, the survivors state the message
of Sondheim and Lapine’s piece: Warn children as to the consequences of their
actions and never let them forget the past.
Black president of the Arts
Project has grown from juvenile to leading character actor. He infuses this
role with the utmost if sincerity and human frailty making it even more
affecting than I remember in other productions.
Not seen below: Beth Leavel,
provided the voice of the fearsome giant and Mike
Hartstein, as Cinderella’s wise father.
songs not mentioned below: an ominous(“(It’s the) Last
Midnight”), a finger pointing quintet “Your Fault”, from the witch at the
end “This is the world I meant./Couldn’t you listen?”, plus “Maybe They’re
Magic” (the beans), “It Takes Two”, Mrs. Baker’s “Moments in the
Woods”, and Cinderella’s dad’s” No More”.
A glimpse of the show:
The sets are simple
the costumes, by
costume designer Siena Zoë Allen, assisted by costume coordinator Rita Horvath are in
the cast: ,
Mary T. Farrell as the cow (also of Cinderella’s Mother, Red Ridinghood’s
knowing Granny,) David Ballard superb as the soon motherless, soft-headed Jack, Mr.
& Mrs. Baker, Steven Alan Black and Cynthia Murray-Davis poignant as the long
suffering Baker’s wife.
They will later deliver the
show’s anthem “No One Is Alone”
Cassese tries to keep things in order
Jack, the cow and his
mother, Lise Zinn, effective in a pivotal role
Cinderella’s hilarious Step Mom
and 2 sisters, as Luis Villabon, Jeff Meyer, and Paul Martin Kovic, in the
Pies’ signature cross gender moments.
Heather Koren wistfully
sings as Cinderella who just wants to go the Festival
in the show’s most
innovative moment Cinderella talks to her "birds"
The Witch, Nicole
LaFountaine, tongue-twisting Witch’s rap (“Greens, greens and nothing but
greens”) a stand out in the complicated double role of the ugly witch who morphed into
the glamorous ultimately delivering and the show’s
message and most famous song, “Children Will Listen”
Ryan Bell as the lascivious Wolf
who teaches willing pupil Red Riding Hood
(audacious Anna Ty Bergman) a
The Witch begs “Stay
with Me” to the silent Rapunzel, in a beautifully danced performance
reminiscent of Susan in FInian’s Rainbow
Eric Gunhus was Ryan
Bell’s brother, Rapunzel’s swain, making for a well-matched pair of
handsome, polished-voiced Prince Charmings’ sing “Agony,” with Bell quick
to seduce Murray-Davis’ Baker’s Wife, when they’re temporarily separated from
their spouses, and both lusting after the unattainable Sleeping Beauty
Well deserved curtain calls
Jason Blitman, Music Director Lance Cruce
Sets Joey Mendoza, assisted by
Jessie Bonaventure; lights, Timothy Born projection designer Alex deNevers;
sound, Tommy Rosati.
Musicians: violinists Maeve
O’Hara, Jules Lai; cellist Maria Hadge; bassist Brandon Kraayenbrink; flute and
piccolo player Josh Johnson; clarinetist Eileen Wilson; bassoonist Colin
Mannes; trumpeter Rebecca Steinberg; horn player Chuck Wilson; and
percussionist Mary Rodriguez
an image from Disney's film version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into
the Woods. The film features a cast of Hollywood and Broadway
favorites such as Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Billy Magnussen, and James Corden.
and James Lapine's fairy tale-inspired musical Into
the Woods adds
another milestone to its landmark year. Along with its eagerly awaited Roundabout Theatre Company revival and its
star-studded film adaptation coming to theaters this December, the video
recording of the original Broadway production will now become available on
Blu-ray, also in December.
Lilla Crawford, formerly
of Broadway's Annie, will star as Little
Red Riding Hood (you see what magic a movie can create)
(© Peter Mountain)
The original on Broadway
Bernadette Peters and the
original Broadway cast of Into the Woods, November 5,
musical was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning three for Best Book (James
Lapine), Best Score (Stephen Sondheim), and Best Actress (Gleason).
Into The Woods Off-Broadway
Ben Steinfeld and Jessie Austrian
as the Baker and the Baker's Wife in Fiasco Theatre's production of Into
the Woods at the
(© T. Charles Erickson)
For tickets to the Roundabout
Theatre Company revival of Into the Woods, click here.
And…if you are traveling…….
STEPHEN SONDHEIM & JAMES
INTO THE WOODS
Produced, Adapted, Directed, Designed, Marketed
Toured & Performed in Mandarin Chinese
400 Performances in
Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tainjin, Chongqing, Chengdu,
Hangzhou, Dongguan, Changsha, Wuhan, Xian, Jinan, Zhengzhou
It really gets into your head.
I was babbling all the way home
as I wondered how to write it:
Into the words
I have to go
without all those words
there' d be no show!