- Jed Moch/Daily
By Sharon Jacobs, Assistant Arts Editor
Published October 10, 2010
When the Department of Musical Theatre begins its run of “Into the Woods” tonight, it will mark the first time in five years that the School of Music, Theatre & Dance has taken on the work of famed composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim — a peculiar fact given Sondheim’s enormous influence on the scene. Numbering into the teens, Sondheim’s Broadway shows run the gamut from the creepy and cannibalistic “Sweeney Todd” to the pun-filled Roman farce “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” He’s one of the darkest and most unconventional personalities along the Great White Way, and “Into the Woods” is certainly out there.
"Into the Woods"
Through Oct. 24, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
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For “Into the Woods” Director Mark Madama, an associate professor of music, this production marks only his third staging of a Sondheim show in more than 10 years directing musical theater at the University.
“Sondheim musicals, except for ‘Into The Woods,’ are just not that accessible,” he explained in an interview with the Daily.
But “Into the Woods,” which ties together some quite mature themes a fairytale motif, manages to bridge age gaps for a wider appeal. The show premiered on Broadway in 1987 and soon became a favorite of community theater companies and youth drama programs.
“If you do it in a grammar school or a high school, it just means that the kids are just watching these fairytales,” he said. “If you do it with a college-aged group in their twenties, you’re watching people making decisions that are going to affect their lives. And then if you do it on a more adult level, you’re watching people who are living the ramifications of the choices they made when they were in college or when they were in their early twenties.”
The plot of “Into the Woods” follows Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” as they all try to make their wishes come true while stumbling through a physical and metaphorical forest. The characters’ familiar storylines all cross paths, but ultimately they’re tied together by Sondheim’s original tale of a baker and his wife who, in order to have a child, must reverse a curse of infertility.
“I think that my favorite character is probably the baker’s wife, because she holds everything together, and she’s probably the most human and has the most human wants and flaws,” Madama said. “They all do, but Baker’s Wife is the most easily recognizable, because she’s not a character from a story, from a fairytale — although she seems like she would be.”
“She deals with the problems she’s having with her marriage, looking for more adventure, and then the ramifications of finding that adventure,” he continued.
It’s these problems that twist the show from fantasy into a story of true-to-life people stuck in a fantasy world.
“When you get really familiar with the script, you realize that it’s not just about the fairytales … it is about how sometimes wishes don’t come true, and life doesn’t turn out like you hope it does,” said Music, Theatre & Dance junior Sam Lips. “I think it’s a really profound message that a lot of people can relate and connect with.”
Lips plays Rapunzel’s Prince, the younger of two royal brothers whose spoiled-rotten lifestyle is challenged when he’s faced with a girl he can’t simply own.
“He can’t get (Rapunzel) down to be his wife, so it becomes that one thing you can’t have that you want more than anything,” Lips said. “And I think because you can’t have it, you want it that much more.”
“Into the Woods” also delves into Rapunzel’s storyline from another, less explored perspective: that of the witch who has imprisoned her in the tower.