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A pinch of this, a pinch of that: 'Into the Woods' combines fairy-tale characters for a musical treat.
BY BRIDGET BALCH
It may be chock-full of fairy-tale characters, but "Into the Woods" is no Disney musical.
The University of Mary Washington Department of Theatre and Dance's fall production, "Into the Woods," by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, opened in Klein Theatre on Nov. 2 and will run through Nov. 18.
"Into the Woods" tells the story of a baker and his wife who are desperate to have a child. When they discover that the reason they are childless is that there is a curse on them, their neighbor--a witch--sends them on a quest to collect the four ingredients for a potion that can break the spell: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.
So the couple ventures into the woods, where they encounter many characters from Grimm and other fairy tales, including Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
Each character has its own story line that manages to get twisted together with the others.
From hilarious mishaps to emotional tragedy, this Tony-winning musical puts a twist on the fairy tales everyone knows and loves to create a mature, moral-driven reality check.
KLEIN THEATRE TURNS 100
This year marks the 100th anniversary of theater at UMW. According to Gregg Stull, director of "Into the Woods," the university is celebrating that 100 years by revisiting shows it has done in the past.
"Into the Woods," which premiered on Broadway in 1987, was performed at UMW in 1995.
"We felt it was a great title worth revisiting," said Stull, who is also a professor and chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance. "The music is extraordinary."
It is particularly appropriate to mark the 100-year anniversary with a fairy-tale-themed piece, since the first production that UMW put on was "Alice in Wonderland."
A ROLE REVERSAL
Just as the characters from different fairy tales come together in the musical, members of the UMW and Fredericksburg communities are collaborating on this production.
In addition to UMW students from various academic and extracurricular concentrations-- including a physics major and a baseball player,--and faculty from the theater department, the cast and crew include an English professor, an education professor, an alumna and members of the Fredericksburg community.
"[The collaboration] mirrors the content of the show--people from different communities coming together to survive the problems," said Gary Richards, professor and chairman of the English Department, who portrays the Narrator.
Richards, although a great fan of musical theater and Sondheim in particular, had never been cast in a production before.
Stull approached Richards because he wanted to represent the Narrator as separate from the rest of the characters and thought having a faculty member in the role would set it apart.
Richards acknowledges some awkwardness in rehearsals, since he is in an authoritative role as professor, but many of the students have more experience in theater than he does.
Richards emphasized that this production is an educational experience for all involved and laughed off the "colossal mistakes" that the students have helped him work through.
"Into the Woods" hits home for Richards because it reminds him of the loss he experienced when he was forced to evacuate his home in New Orleans in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina.
The soundtrack for this musical was in his car's CD player as he drove away from home.
Despite the tragic and emotional themes, the musical manages to stay funny and upbeat throughout the play.
"It's a brilliant piece that is very funny in a smart way," Richards said. "I hope [the audience] can appreciate the work that the cast and crew have done."
COMING OUT TO PLAY
Although the production is put together by many different members of the community, most of the cast are UMW students.
One is junior theater major Nick McGovern, playing Jack. It's his first role in a major production.
In addition to classes and rehearsals, McGovern also plays baseball.
"It's been tough," McGovern said about juggling play rehearsals and practice.
However, he said his coaches have been understanding about his schedule.
"I think you can always find time for things you're passionate about," McGovern said.
Pietro Perrino plays the lead role of the Baker, and he isn't even a theater major. A senior majoring in physics, Perrino was enchanted by UMW's theater department when he played Tom Collins in "Rent" last year.
"The cast by far" is Perrino's favorite part of being involved in the production.
"I've met a lot of fun people," Perrino said.
Music and theater majors Chelsea Raitor, who plays Cinderella, and Judi Jackson, who plays the witch, emphasized the complexity and challenging nature of the music.
"It's very much a technically difficult [musical]," Raitor said.
"I'm growing, definitely; growing as an actress, growing as a vocalist," Jackson said.
Bess Ten Eyck, a senior theater major, is playing Little Red Ridinghood. She is doing her senior project on the role, which involves keeping a blog, doing in-depth character analysis and thinking critically about the play.
"I think that the themes are pretty universal," Ten Eyck said. "I hope that the audience can share in our vision of the show."
Bridget Balch: 540/374-5444