~ by Rebecca Nimerfroh ~
Stepping into the theatre to see Into the Woods is like dusting off a mysterious, leather bound book from the attic which, upon opening, immediately transports you to a faraway land full of magic, witches, giants, and fairy tales. Into the Woods, presented by The Theatre Workshop of Nantucket, borrows from a few of your favorite fairy tales (think Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Bean Stalk) and creates a multi-faceted tale that will have you clapping in your seat, tapping your feet, and humming the chorus tune all the way home.
The story begins with the introduction of several main characters all tied by a common thread; they are all wishing for a dream to come true. Cinderella wishes to go to the festival that her evil step-family is attending, Jack wishes to keep his cow while his mother wishes that he sell it, and a baker and his wife wish for a child. Through the intervention of an evil witch, these characters are bound together on a journey to first make their wishes come true, and then to deal with the repercussions and consequences of those granted wishes.
Having missed my opportunity to see the recent movie of the same name, I did not know what to expect as I walked into the charming playhouse on Centre Street. The stage was lit in twilight blue, decorated with lush trees, and the sound of birdsong filled the air. As the lights dimmed down and the play began, I was immediately impressed by the range of characters and their powerful performances. While humorous at times, each actor conveyed a character that is complex, with feeling and soul. I felt lucky as I watched that, even though we are on the tiny island of Nantucket, we have such talent amongst us.
Because each character has an amusing new world-twist (Little Red Riding Hood is bratty and doesn’t want anything to do with the wolf, and Cinderella isn’t really that taken with the prince), I quickly became invested in the classic fairy tale characters I thought I had read about one thousand times before, and was curious as to how the story would end. If you don’t already know, the same tales we’ve all heard before are certainly not the same ones we are told at a production of Into the Woods.
There’s a reason why this popular 1987 musical written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine has been so frequently revived, churning like a water wheel that splashes the audience with humor, passion, and sincerity all the while teaching a lesson like the best fairy tales tend to do. Under the direction of Justin Cerne and musical direction by Jillian Zack, each song and act is a heavy hitter and together, the entire cast unifies to pull off a huge, entertaining feast of characters.
Whether you’re young or old, let this stellar cast take you on a hike that is at times both delightfully funny and touchingly sincere. As on any real walk in the woods, you’ll meander with wonder from start to finish.
The Theatre Workshop of Nantucket production of Into the Woods is running now until August 29 at Bennett Hall, 62 Centre Street. For tickets, call the box office at 508-228-4305 or visit theatreworkshop.com