Musical shakes up old fairy tales
Posted April 28 ,2006
Rhiannon Mim
Freshman Jessica Powers and seniors Anthony Guerrero, Brianna Roth and Steven Andrews march and sing in unison before heading off into the woods. Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods” intertwines the stories of several fairy tale characters. It opened this week in Dailey Theatre. The musical closes on Sunday with a matinee at 2 p.m.

Classic fairy tales get a new spin in the University of La Verne’s performance of the Tony award-winning musical, “Into the Woods.”

An audience of roughly 100 people assembled in Dailey Theatre Wednesday to see Cinderella, Rapunzel and other fairy tale characters come together in a show that illuminates the selfish values of classic stories.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, “Into the Woods” is a fairy tale with more than a happy ending; it’s a tale that gives “happily ever after” a new name.

“Usually the parents are reading fairy tales to their children,” said Georgij Paro, senior adjunct professor of theater arts and co-director of the musical. “I feel like my son is reading this to me - teaching me the wisdom that I didn’t have when I was raising him.”

This musical sheds new light on old stories that may have been sending the wrong messages, and with tantalizing songs and a great cast, this is one musical to see.

The set, designed by Professor of Theater Arts and co-director David Flaten, was extravagant. Burlap covered the walls to give the illusion of trees and the raked multi-level stage added a fresh dimension.

The stage was transformed into the dark woods with curtains covered in burlap to enhance the scene.

Talented singers belted out Sondheim’s catchy songs with a remarkable amount of passion.

The composer is known for his complicated lyrics, and in this show these lyrics accompany a breathtaking but confusing storyline that is only comprehensible on stage.

In short, “Into the Woods” shows how fairy tale characters display storybook egoism while in the woods, but later discover what is truly important – community.

Although most of the tales seem traditional, the musical pokes fun at the hollow messages in classic fairy tales and takes these tales to a place where more importance is placed on family rather than individual wishes and desires.

In act one a disfigured witch forces a butcher and his wife to go into the woods to find four items, and in doing this they encounter some familiar fairy tale faces.

Each fairy tale character in the show becomes greedy and gluttonous from their selfish wishes.

Cinderella longed to attend the Fiesta and meet the prince, but when able, she seemed less than satisfied. Jack climbed the beanstalk in an effort to find new friends, but in the end was overcome with greed and stole from the giants.

Rapunzel was a lonely girl locked in a tower who dreamed of the outside world, but when given a chance to embrace it, she only realized her ignorance about life.

And finally, Little Red Ridinghood is childish and stubborn and in her tale she disregards her mother’s wishes and strays from the path, which gets her into more trouble than she expected.

Cinderella lied to the prince, Jack stole from the giants, Little Red Ridinghood ignored her mother and Rapunzel let ignorance get the best of her.

Despite these downfalls, all the characters had their wishes and wants granted at the end of act one and the musical seemed to have its “happily ever after,” after all, but there was no need to rush to a conclusion.

Act two turned all preconceived notions about the goodness and accuracy of fairy tales to rest.

“For fairy tales, every one has a happy ending and in this show there is a happy ending; but it’s not the happy ending that people would want,” said Eva Hinojoza, a junior music major who played Little Red Ridinghood.

The idea of a “Happily ever after” is the underlying question that is presented to the audience in this play.

Sondheim and Lapine showed their audience how classic fairy tales have themes of selfishness and the University’s production of the piece did the same.

The importance of family and community is just one of the messages that Sondheim and Lapine conveyed in this hybrid fairy tale.

All the characters displayed shades of selfishness in the first act, but by act two, from the need to protect themselves, they find solace in one another and realize the importance of community.

And it’s messages like this that make “Into the Woods” not only a musical to see at school, but also a musical to find inspiration from on all of life’s journeys.

“Not always will an ending be what you want,” said Dana Mc Junkin, a senior liberal studies major who played Granny. “But it’s not necessarily the end that’s important but the journey that can dictate whether you would be willing to do something like that again.”

Katie Hillier can be reached at khillier@ulv.edu.

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