When it made its stage debut, “Into The Woods,” by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, created a story that was delightfully out of the ordinary.
It wasn’t because it was a story people had never heard before. Quite the opposite: The Tony Award-winning musical featured stories that many people have heard since they were children but that were brought together in a completely new way.
“You can pick your favorite fairy tale, and it’s probably in here,” said Fred Rose, a cast member in the Fiasco Theater’s touring production. “It does create the show that really anybody from age 5 to 100 can watch and find something in it.”
“Into The Woods” certainly enchanted audiences when it made its Broadway debut in 1987, leading to 10 Tony Award nominations and wins for best original score, best book of a musical and for Joanna Gleason for best performance by a leading actress in a musical as the Baker’s Wife. It has since gone on to spawn numerous other hit productions around the world and a 2014 film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp and Chris Pine.
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Among the musical’s successful offshoots includes Fiasco Theater’s national tour, coming to Center College’s Norton Center for the Arts on Thursday.
There’s ‘happily ever after’... and there’s more. Life isn’t just a perfect fairy tale.
Fred Rose, actor with ‘Into the Woods’
The story manages to weave together iconic fairy tale characters, including Cinderella and Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack from “Jack in the Beanstalk” into a story centered around the Baker and his Wife, who remain childless thanks to the Witch down the road, who put a curse on the couple. To lift the curse, they must retrieve items that force them to cross paths with various fairy tale characters and their popular stories.
The Baker, Wife and fairy tale characters all must make choices along the way that will altertheir lives forever. Rose, who acts, sings and plays cello as the play’s Mysterious Man, who frequently pops into the various characters’ plots, said the musical’s characters face consequences of their choices in the second act.
“There’s ‘happily ever after’... and there’s more,” he said. “Life isn’t just a perfect fairy tale. There’s a lot of questions and decisions to make.”
One decision that the Fiasco Theater company made when it took on “Into The Woods” proved to be a great one. It’s anchored by Lapine’s plot and Sondheim’s signature songwriting and compositions of “Children Will Listen” and “No One Is Alone,” but Fiasco’s critically acclaimed version of “Into The Woods” is decidedly stripped down and very much an ensemble piece. The 11 actors and musicians are on the stage the whole time, playing multiple roles with simplistic props, and a pianist at the core of what ends up being a small chamber orchestra.
“It’s exciting to tell a story, whether it’s to a kid in the audience, or 2,000 people, without all that stuff,” Rose said of the play’s usual fairy tale flourishes. “It allows more imagination to be at play for the audience, and it’s fun to see a lot of different people doing a lot of different things.”
Rose the genius of Sondheim and Lapine will endure in whatever form it takes, but the Fiasco Theater incarnation that he has been a part of helps to tell a story in a way that delivers on multiple levels.
“You can do anything you want in your imagination, and part of being a good actor and part of what allows this production to be so special is the sense of play. To let the story feel like playtime,” he said. “It’s fun to do a hybrid of those things, where you approach things like a child but from an adult perspective to what it all really means.”
Blake Hannon: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
“Into The Woods”
What: Fiasco Theatre’s production of the James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim musical
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9
Where: Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, 600 W. Walnut St., Danville
Tickets: $39 to $75