A new take on living ‘happily ever after’

“Into the Woods” is not your grandmother’s fairytale.

J Company Youth Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony Award-winning musical puts a distinctive spin on all of the traditional enchanted creatures, including Jack (of “Jack and the Beanstalk”) and Little Red Riding Hood. Although it’s hard to image a less-than-faithful Prince Charming or an undecided Cinderella, they’re among the cast of “Into the Woods,” which runs through Dec. 14 at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre in La Jolla.

When a Baker and his wife learn that they’ve been cursed with childlessness, they embark on a journey to break the spell using all means necessary, even lying and stealing from our beloved storybook characters. This inimitable take on “happily ever after” will leave audiences smiling.

Joey Landwehr, the artistic director of J Company, is directing the production and is delighted with his cast and crew.

“A wise instructor of mine at Ohio State told me that the first rule of directing is to surround yourself with the best and you will have the best product,” Landwehr said. “That is what I have done. While many young artists fall into the trap of just replicating what they have seen before, my young cast has really delved into the show and created endearing and intricate characters.”

Robbie Friedman, 17, from Carmel Valley, plays the part of the Mysterious Man in the play, which originally debuted at The Old Globe in 1986 and premiered on Broadway in 1987.

“‘Into the Woods’ is one of my favorite shows because the music is so interesting,” he said. “It’s like you can’t tell when the actors are singing or talking.”

Friedman gives Landwehr praise for his directing style.

“He helps us grow as actors and treats us as adults, and that’s why I love working with him,” he said.

Adriana Yedidsion, 17, from La Jolla, echoes this sentiment.

“Joey is always encouraging us to be creative and stretch our characters to their furthest limits,” she said. “I am playing the role of the witch, and although she is the most unpleasant character in the show, her flexible qualities give me endless ways to portray her role.”

True to J Company’s educational mission, cast members are working with the nonprofit company, an organization that produces washable stickers with the message “These Come from Trees.” Each show Landwehr directs includes an educational outreach component and with this being “J Company Goes Green” season, environmental awareness takes priority.

The young artists from “Into the Woods” will be placing more than 700 of the stickers on paper towel holders across San Diego County to remind people to limit wasteful usage.

‘Into the Woods’

  • Through Dec. 14
  • David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre
  • 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla
  • $13-$17
  • (858) 362-1348