Pit & Balcony Launches 87th Season with the Musical Magic of INTO THE WOODS

Posted In:   From Issue 868   By: Robert E Martin

27th September, 2018     0

To fully ignite the magic as they kick-off their 87th Season, Pit & Balcony Community Theatre is staging an ambitious production of the Broadway musical Into the Woods, which debuted in 1986 with music & lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine; and won several Tony Awards, including Best Score and Best Book. Most recently a Disney film adaption was released in 2014, which grossed over $213 million worldwide and received three Academy Award and three Golden Globe nominations.

Meticulously crafted and conceived, Into the Woods intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters wishes & quests. With characters drawn from Little Red Riding Hood, Jack & the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella,  as well as several others; the musical is tied together by a story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family, their interaction with a witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey.

Bursting at the seams with content and potential, for director Laura Brigham the high caliber and quality of both the music & script of Into the Woods also poses its own unique skill set of challenges. 

“Nowadays when we talk about modern musicals people immediately think of ‘Pop Musicals’, but within the expanse of the last 50 years, I think Into the Woods is one of the most complicated musical productions in the canon,” she states. “Not only is the music complicated, but so much of it is inter-woven into every scene, along with rhythmic sound effects and rhythmic speaking.  It’s not just a matter of a character singing a song and then another character singing a different song, because it takes storytelling to a new level.”

As the director, there are numerous themes running through Into the Woods that Laura is striving to emphasize. “Normally,  the story is told by a narrator who stands by the side of the stage,” she notes. “I’ve done this show twice as an actor and never saw anyone explore who the narrator is and why he is telling the story. For me, telling the story behind a story that needs to be told is kind of the point, so I want to characterize the narrator and incorporate the story he is telling. I’ve seen it done before where the narrator is a kid; but don’t want to give too much away about our production.”

“Basically, the child in this story is raised by a single father who doesn’t understand him, so he works out his inner stuff by writing and telling stories,” she continues. “His Dad doesn’t get it, so he runs into the woods and works out his inner struggles through these stories. Interestingly, many of these older parental figures are represented by dark creatures in the woods, so we see how the narrator imposes his literary way of thinking onto these woods and these characters, as the only way not to make the characters not so scary is to make the woods a world not too scary.”

“The design team at Pit & Balcony are doing incredible stuff; and I’ve told the actors to find lines from their narrative that can be incorporated into a piece of their costume, to reflect the literary references that the narrator has created in his mind,” adds Laura. “For example, to create the bird nests we’re using newspapers and book pages.”

“There’s a lot of comedy in this show and because the story consists of fairy tales everyone knows that have been twisted together, the audience will recognize characters right away,” reflects Laura. “Act 2 is darker than Act 1 but the key themes behind this production are ‘be careful what you wish for’ and ‘be careful what you say’, because children will really listen to what you say, if you’re not lying to them. It’s about how ideals change and boils down to what is truly important in the end - what’s really important about life and family.”

Featuring a cast of 19 actors, according to Laura the big challenge is the fact there are so many moving parts to every scene.  “The acting in this play is very scene specific and because this is very much as ensemble production, without any main characters and experience levels ranging from people who have done anywhere from dozens to only a couple of shows, the trick is to get everyone on the same page with what is happening,” she explains.

“Some actors follow their instinct and others are taught to stop and listen for direction and what someone is telling them,” she continues, “so I don’t think of this as a show with any lead characters. I think every character has a voice and is part of the whole, so my role is to make sure each actor finds their own journey and story through the woods.  I’m trying to guide everyone to look at why another character’s story is relevant to their own, filling in their own stories and creating a synergism. We have a very wide age range in the cast and everybody is important.”

Laura adds that auditions for Into the Woods were strong and that apart from having a couple music and voice teachers in the ensemble that are able to help other less experienced actors, she also has a woman in the cast who recently moved to our area from Seattle and worked with the Seattle Opera, so she’s been able to voice-caption the production, which is under the musical direction of Todd Thomas.

Cast members consist of Jason Applegate - Cinderella's Prince/Wolf; John Barnes - Steward; Melissa Bornemann - Cinderella's Father; Jenny Cohen - Witch; Lillian Deering - Florinda; Andrew Fort - Rapunzel's Prince; Zoe Gilbert - Rapunzel; Elijah Holnagel - Narrator; Danielle Katsoulos - Lucinda; Karly Laskowski - Granny/Giant; Emma Massey - Little Red; Hannah Nelson - Cinderella; Cameron Plarske - Jack; Emily Rupp - Baker's Wife; Ann Russell-Lutenske - Jack's Mother; Ryan Sequin - Baker; Dan Skutt - Mysterious Man; Kim Streby - Stepmother; and Erin Whitfield - Cinderella's Mother/Snow White.

Pit & Balcony’s production of ‘Into the Woods’ will run Friday through Sunday from October 5-7 and 12-14th. Friday & Saturday shows are at 7:30 PM and Sunday matinees are at 3 PM. Tickets are $20 and available by visiting PitandBalconyTheatre.com or phoning 989.754.6587.




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