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Shenandoah's 'Into the Woods' takes fairy tales darker

Ali Foley, left, plays Rapunzel and Victoria Krump, right, plays The Witch in Shenandoah University's production of Into the Woods. Rich Cooley/Daily

Chelsey Jean, the Baker's wife, and Evan Baranowski, right, The Baker, rehearse Shenandoah University's play Into the Woods. Rich Cooley/Daily

James Laster narrates Shenandoah University's production of "Into the Woods." Rich Cooley/Daily

By Josette Keelor

Shenandoah University's upcoming performance of "Into the Woods" combines well-known fairy tale characters from various stories into one, but that might be the only thing audiences can expect from this dark tale that's more Grimm than Disney.

With recent reincarnations of fairy tales played out on television, like ABC's "Once Upon a Time" or this year's film "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," SU's stage play, with music by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, is in its element, said director Jonathan Flom.

What began on Broadway in 1995, he said, is still a hit, making the rounds nationwide and in our area. It's journeyed to Shenandoah before, he said, but not for at least 10 years.

From the original Broadway production, he said, "It's been revived a couple of times."

"I think the really twisted fairy tale theme is coming back now," he said. "It's a good time to revisit it."

But if you think this will be the same old thing, Flom disagrees.

"It's done in a way that makes it feel contemporary," he said.

The main characters are favorites, old and new: Rapunzel and the Witch, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack, of bean stalk fame.

The baker and his wife, played by Shenandoah students Evan Baranowski and Chelsey Jean, tie together the other story lines, Flom said, and James Laster serves as narrator.

"He's a name that if people are theatergoers ... they certainly would know," Flom said. "He has just been a delight, and sort of becomes the glue that holds the whole piece together. The narrator is a really fun part."

Rachael Haber plays Cinderella, Rebecca Kaz plays Red, Brandon Shapiro is Jack, Victoria Krump the Witch and Ali Foley Rapunzel. All are S.U. students.

"It's a lot of supporting roles," Flom said.

Act One is not quite as heavy and dark as Act Two is, he said, but "our approach to it anyway is to really use the Grimm format as a basis for it."

In fact, it even could stand on its own, he said. "You probably could be satisfied with just the Act One," he said.

Act Two, he said, grows very dark and deals with themes of death and loss.

"I think it's one of the most brilliantly-written musicals, well, I would say ever, of this generation," said Flom.

As one of the university's Main Stage shows, it features students.

"We do three musicals and three or four plays every year plus a couple of children's shows, so we have a pretty robust season," he said.

To those who might come to see the show, Flom said, "Know you'll get a combination of wit and intelligence. I think that it appeals. It's had its lasting power because it appeals on so many different levels."

And the stories are familiar enough that the audience will be familiar with the characters, he said.

"These aren't going to wind up the way you think they're going to wind up."

"Into the Woods" will take the stage at the Shenandoah University Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre Feb. 28 through March 3, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for students and active military. Group discounts are available for 10 or more. For more information, call 665-4569 or visit www.ConservatoryPerforms.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com


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