Studio Tenn presents Into The Woods Oct. 17 through Nov. 3 at the historic Franklin Theatre. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical twist on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale world debuted on Broadway in 1986 and became an instant classic, sustaining its popularity among audiences of all ages through numerous revivals. (On Christmas Day 2014 there will even be a Disney film adaptation.)
“There is so much to love about Into The Woods, whether you’re an adult, child, or child-at-heart,” says company Managing Director Jake Speck.
The plot intertwines story lines from such fairy tales as Little Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella. It begins simply with the quintessential fairy tale conundrum: everybody has a wish. And as wishes in fairy tales are wont to do – (no spoilers here) – they all come true.
Act Two, however, is the yang to the yin – a reality check to the fairy tale. “Happily Ever After,” after all, is just a matter of when the storyteller decides to say “The End.” What if instead of merely riding off into the sunset – literally or figuratively – the characters were to continue? Into the Woods explores the aftermath of living out the wishes.
“That’s the poignant and amazing part,” says Artistic Director Matt Logan. “It poses the question, ‘How often do we really even know what we want?’
“Watching these characters from our collective cultural memory discover their own stories and pursue them past their familiar fairy tale endings is both entertaining and deeply thought-provoking.”
As visuals go, Studio Tenn’s production will borrow less from the pages of a storybook and more from the pages of a yearbook. “Stylistically, we’re taking this production in a direction that’s more ‘retro’ than ‘fantasy,’” Logan explains.
Modern and vintage pop culture references will hearken back to the good ol’ days of youth – whenever that may have been. “Think of the Napoleon Dynamite aesthetic,” Logan claims. Virtually an instant cult classic among the millennial general, that 2004 MTV film is set in a sort of surreal mishmash of decades – some ’80s here, some ’90s there, with a smattering of ’60s and ’70s – so that the viewer doesn’t quite know when exactly the story is supposed to have taken place. For example, Studio Tenn’s spin on Little Red Riding Hood, like film darlings Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, lingers in that delightful limbo of adolescent awkwardness; Cinderella’s stepsisters, meanwhile, are much like Tina Fey’s Mean Girls, and the “ball” is more a high-school prom.
The largely local cast includes Kayce Cummings as Cinderella, Susan Swindell Day as Cinderella’s Stepmother and Granny, Laura Matula as Lucinda, Susannah Smith White as Florinda, Kim Bretton as Baker’s Wife, Emily Tello Speck as Rapunzel and Harp, Nan Gurley as the Witch, Marguerite Lowell as Cinderella’s Mother and Giant, Patrick Waller as Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince, Matthew Carlton as Mysterious Man and Jack’s Mother, Ross Bridgeman as Rapunzel’s Prince, Brent Maddox as the Baker and Garris Wimmer as Steward, along with New York’s Marissa Rosen as Little Red Riding Hood and Joey Barreiro as Jack. And in a fresh interpretive twist, the Narrator will be played by nine-year-old Gus O’Brien.
“Seeing the story unfold through a child’s eyes reminds us how we are all shaped by our own childhood validations,” Logan concludes. “In the end, it’s not so much about children as it is about the child that manages to endure in each of us – in our hopes, fears, dreams, expectations and imaginings.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit StudioTenn.com or call the Franklin Theatre box office at (615) 538-2076.
*Photo of Kayce Cummings as Cinderella by ANTHONYMATULA courtesy Studio Tenn.