By Diana SaengerSince the earliest fairytales emerged to enchant and mesmerize, children have been transported to imaginative places. But it’s not only children who have been charmed, so have adults. Perhaps that’s why fairytale characters continue to turn up in plays and films; because really, who wants to grow up?
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “
Into the Woods,” is a musical that made its world premiere in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986. It premiered on Broadway, November 5, 1987 and won three Tony Awards. It’s about a childless baker and his wife who want to start a family, and revolves around many characters taken from fairytales like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella.”
Noah Brody, Ben Steinfeld, and Jessie Austrian, Co-Artistic Directors of Fiasco Theater (an ensemble company created by graduates of the Brown University/Trinity Rep M.F.A. acting program) have brought the production to the Old Globe through Aug. 17. All three have roles in the musical. Brody as (Lucinda, wolf, Cinderella’s prince), Steinfeld as (baker), and Austrian as the baker’s wife. Brody and Steinfeld are directing.
There are many elements that drew Brody and Steinfeld’s interest in this musical.
“It reminded us of the Shakespeare plays we’ve worked on,” Steinfeld said. “We were drawn to the piece because it’s a huge theme with a wild story that presents all kinds of theatrical challenges like iconic characters, giants and magic; and physical challenges of the story changes in tone from a broad musical comedy to a group social drama. It covers so much territory emotionally, intellectually, and dramatically. It provides a rich experience for the artist and the audience drawn to Sondheim as a composer and lyricist.”
The Fiasco Company worked on their ideas for the production for more than a year before beginning rehearsals for its production at the McCarter Theatre Center.
“We began thinking about it before beginning the production and what it would be like to take on a musical and bring in our arsenal of skill sets and way of working on plays,” Brody said. “We did a week long workshop after which we both decided we loved the piece, thought it was appropriate for us and doable. Eventually we approached the entire Fiasco Company – as we develop the ideas of a production together – with questions about theme, content, approach and experimenting.”
The directors understand how the music helps strengthen and ups the intrigue of the story.
“The music does something that text can’t do by itself,” Brody said. “It operates on a level that survives the kind of emotional reality that’s not seen or doesn’t need to be explained the way a song sounds. It creates an ambivalence or complexity experience you couldn’t achieve without it. As a composer, Sondheim uses variations so brilliantly that phrases of music you’ve heard throughout the evening keep recurring in different ways such as different shapes, forms or forwards or backwards. It depends on the context as kind of a vocabulary that unfolds without the audience even being aware that it’s happening, and that’s due to both dramatic and comic effect in the show.”
The show has the original cast from the McCarter production except for a new actor playing the witch (Alison Cimmet), but the all three of the Co- Artistic Directors of Fiasco Theater know the audience is in for an entertaining evening.
“I hope they all have a rich experience that is deeply enjoyable,” Steinfeld said. “Sondheim and Lapine give us what we know and yet pull back the curtain to show us the deeper allegory behind these stories. In a way these folk-tale characters remind us what the implications are on our children from our parents and to our parents throughout generations, and that the stories we tell matter; and how we tell those stories matter.”
If you go: “Into The Woods” runs through Aug. 17 at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage
,1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
from $29 at (619) 23-GLOBE