|Musical Theatre Production "Into the Woods" Looks at the Other Side of Happily Ever After
March 23, 2011
By Kelly Beggs
|The "Into the Woods" cast includes (l-r) Jacob Fanning as The Wolf, Magggie Birgel as Little Red, Will James as the Narrator, Sierra Roberts as Cinderella, and Ryan Chiles as Cinderella's Prince. (Photo by Jordan Luebkemann)
Davidson College's Music and Theatre departments will present the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Into the Woods March 25 to April 2.
Based on a book by James Lapine with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods upends familiar fairy tales and explores the "after" of "happily ever after." Assistant Professor of Theatre Mark Sutch will direct a cast of student singers, dancers and actors in collaboration with Artist Associate in Voice Jacquelyn Culpepper, who will provide musical direction, and Associate Professor of Music Tara Towson Villa, who will conduct the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra.
Performances will be March 25-26 at 8 p.m., March 27 at 2 p.m., April 1 at 8 p.m., and April 2 at 8 p.m. in the Duke Family Performance Hall. Tickets cost $15 for general admission, $11 for seniors, $9 for faculty and staff, and $6 for students.
To purchase tickets, call the Alvarez College Union ticket office at 704-894-2135 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays or visit www.davidson.edu/tickets. The play is recommended for ages 8 and up.
Into the Woods, which was first performed in 1986, intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them further to explore the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests. Sutch said, "Act I is straightforward musical comedy. It skewers Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. But the second act is much more challenging, more serious, darker."
Act II goes beyond the familiar endings of the fairy tales to explore the effects of wish fulfillment. Sutch explained, "At the end of Act I everyone has gotten what they want, and everyone's content. Act II demonstrates that we may think we'll be happy once we get what we want, but things don't work that way. We usually end up wishing for and striving for something more."
The play also explores the conflict between parents and their maturing children, as parents struggle to let go and children try to take on the new responsibilities of independence. Characters who have relied on magic to achieve their desires, and the play's narrator to make their decisions, must learn how to solve problems without help from higher powers.
The Davidson production will emphasize the role of the narrator (played by Will James '11) to show the characters' problematic reliance on external powers to resolve conflict. James acts as a kind of ringmaster of the production, with full control over lighting, sets, music and the fates of the characters. When the narrator ceases to narrate in Act II, the characters must take ownership of their actions.
Sondheim's poignant musical score compliments the play's themes and includes the Broadway standard "Children Will Listen" among other well-known songs. Sutch said, "You can pour emotion into a song in a way that you can't with spoken text. Songs provide a shortcut to our emotions."
Musical Director Jacquelyn Culpepper said, "The music is incredibly complex, with layers and layers to be unraveled. Rhythms are intricate and the text is full of alliterations that would twist any tongue. It requires the skill and balance from singer-actors, and we're lucky to have talented, dedicated students who can pull it off."
Sutch also commended the exceptional talent of his cast of 19 students. He said, "I've really been impressed by their work ethic and the quality of what they've produced so far. It really is the strongest ensemble I've worked with at this school this far."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.