Stephen Sondheim fans get into the words, and his musical "Into the Woods" is a practically perfect example of why the acclaimed lyricist/composer has earned such a devoted following.
First performed on Broadway in 1987 in a Tony-winning production starring Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason, the musical has gone on to become one of Sondheim's most popular shows. It is a favorite for high schools and theater companies across the country, including Utah, where new productions are coming soon to the The Grand in Salt Lake City and CenterPoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville.
For Top of Utah fans who need a Sondheim fix or who want to see what all the fuss is about, the Syracuse City Arts Council presents a production of the musical this week at Syracuse High School.
With a story written by James Lapine, the musical tells the tale of a Baker and the Baker's Wife whose greatest wish is to have a baby. But the Baker has been cursed because of his father's misdeeds. As it happens, their next-door neighbor is a witch with an agenda of her own. The old hag sends the barren couple into the woods on a scavenger hunt of sorts for the ingredients to make a potion to reverse the curse. Things get a little complicated when they run into Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and a guy named Jack who happened upon some magic beans that grow into an enormous beanstalk.
Happily, their wishes all come true and things end happily ever -- at least at the end of the first act. The second act is another story altogether as an angry giant, princes with roving eyes, and a distraught, short-haired Rapunzel wreak havoc in the not-so-enchanting land.
The Syracuse production is directed by Syracuse residents Darren and Miranda Maxfield.
"What makes it fun is that all the fairy tales that we learned as kids are turned on their sides and the characters get to interact," Miranda Maxfield said. "One of the reasons we chose this show is because in the second act the characters come together as a community to overcome the giant in their lives. I have always loved that it's not just one person who is the hero, it's everybody in the community that comes together."
The cast of nearly two dozen includes Jennica Smith of Syracuse as Little Red Riding Hood, Aaron Naylor of Kaysville as Jack, Jillian Tirado of Layton as Cinderella, Janay Hansen of Layton as Rapunzel, Shaun Gardner of Layton as the Baker and Becky Snarr of Syracuse as his wife.
The production also includes the Youth Production opener "Before, Ever After" -- a Sondheim musical revue writtten and directed by Syracuse resident Lindsay Davis.