Featuring the beloved and familiar stories and characters of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” weaves a brilliant tapestry of poignant lessons and beautiful melodies, bringing new meaning to stories that we have passed down from generation to generation throughout the centuries. A stunning production of this dazzling musical comes to Fairfax this weekend as part of a new collaboration between George Mason University’s School of Music and Department of Theater.
“Into the Woods” appears at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall in Fairfax on Oct. 26, 2012 at 8 p.m., Oct. 27, 2012 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Oct. 28, 2012 at 4 p.m. Musical direction for the production is by Dennis M. Layendecker, director of the School of Music and University Heritage Chair of Music, who conducts the Mason Symphony Orchestra. The play will be directed by Ken Elston, chair of the Department of Theater.
“We are building a new musical theater program – currently envisioned as a certificate program – in which students will be able to leverage the strengths of theater, music and dance at Mason in growing their skills and careers in this all-American genre,” said Elston, who said that more than 150 Mason students auditioned to be a part of the 22-member cast. “‘Into the Woods’ is a fantastic play and in this 200th anniversary year of the original Grimm tales on which the piece is based, we are especially pleased to investigate the elements of magic and transformation in this work."
This enchanting tale intertwines such stories as “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella” with an original story involving a baker and his wife in their quest to have a child. The couple has been cursed by a neighboring witch who vows to break her spell if the baker and his wife bring her a collection of special objects. All the characters find their wishes granted by the end of Act I, but Act II reveals that the characters must deal with the consequences of their previous actions, which have caused harm to others. This fun and light fairy tale quickly becomes a complex and moving allegory for personal responsibility and the most valuable moments of our lives.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” first debuted at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 1986 and premiered at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway on Nov. 5, 1987, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife. The original Broadway production earned several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical.
The cast includes a number of Mason students from Fairfax County, including Brittany Martz (The Witch) of Fairfax Station, Kate Merryman (Cinderella) of Reston, Melissa Berkowitz (Florinda, Cinderella's step-sister) of McLean, Ruthie Rado (Magic Maker) of Springfield and Maggie Rodgers (Magic Maker) of Fairfax Station.
“[‘Into the Woods’] is a big undertaking for us,” Elston said. “Our professional design team has been hard at work all summer to bring the woods to life, quite literally, and as the director, I would like to think that the life of the show will have a few surprises beyond the story and the score, as Sondheim rarely goes to predictable places.”
The design team for “Into the Woods” comprises Mason faculty and graduates of the theater program who now work as professionals in the greater Washington, D.C. area. The production will feature scenic design by Dana Maier, costume design by Howard Vincent Kurtz, lighting design by Liz Replogle and sound design by Kevin Dunayer. Beth Hoffman serves as dramaturg, Stephanie Seltman serves as production stage manager and sophomore theater major Nerissa Hart serves as properties mistress.
Tickets to this production are $20 general admission and $15 for students, faculty, staff, seniors and groups. Tickets can be purchased by calling 888-945-2468, by visiting cfa.gmu.edu or by visiting the Center for the Arts box office, open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information about Theater at Mason, please visit www.gmu.edu/depts/theater/ or call (703) 993-1120. For more information about Mason’s School of Music, please visit music.gmu.edu or call (703) 993-1380.