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Into The Woods

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Into The Woods
Peoria Players Theatre
February 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 pm, and February 5 and 12 at 2:00 pm

Once upon a time…in a far-off kingdom…lived a young maiden…a sad young lad…and a childless baker…with his wife…and so begins Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.  With the aid of a Narrator (Charlie Brown) the audience is transported into a fairy tale-like world…but one where familiar characters and familiar stories don’t all end “happily-ever-after.”

The first act focuses on the “Happily-Ever-After” we often expect in fairy tales.  Four well-known fairy tale characters are introduced and go on their predictable quests.  Even though The Stepmother (Taylor Elizabeth), her two Stepsisters (Jillian Risinger & Clare Zell)  and her Father (Adam Drake) try to prevent her from going, Cinderella (Trisha Bagby) with the aid of her Mother (Monica Lin) goes to the ball to meet her Prince Charming (Andy Corbin); Jack (Cole Nicholson) sells his beloved Milky White (Zachary Robertson) and climbs the Beanstalk to discover a land of Giants and brings home to his Mother (Barb Couri) riches he has stolen; Red Ridinghood (Mina Vogel) encounters a Wolf (David Schick) disguised as her Granny (Megan Mason); and Rapunzel (Kathleen Smith) escapes from the tower with the aid of a Prince (Alec Colligan) and her long golden hair.  Two additional, yet major, characters -- the Baker (Tony Roberts) and his Wife (Mariah Thorton Aberle) -- have a simple quest -- to have a family.  They were told by the Witch (Courtney Swan) that she had placed a curse on them so that their family tree would always be a barren one.  In order to reverse this curse, she sends them into the woods to find four objects that they must return to her before three midnights pass.

It is while these characters are all journeying Into the Woods to fulfill their wishes, that their paths intertwine and their individual stories become one. But, in order to get their wishes, they had to cheat a little, or lie a little, or trick a little. But, at the end of Act I, they get their wishes and all appear to live “happily ever after”. The first Act has much music and comedy and is suitable for younger audiences (although this is NOT a child’s fairy tale!).

But…then comes the second act…which is…a bit darker!  The characters, having had their wishes come true, now have to take responsibility and deal with the consequences of their actions.  Does a marriage to a prince result in a happy life?  What do you do with a slain giant in your backyard? And are characters purely good or purely evil? 

At the end of Act 2 they finally learn to work together as a community rather than resorting to a culture of blaming others.  Through adversity, they undergo a transformation and attempt to solve the problems and create their own version of “happily ever after.” (Unfortunately some people don’t make it to that “happily-ever-after.”)

One of the most beautiful songs in the show, “No One Is Alone,” tells us that we are not alone…because all of our actions affect everybody else, and we can't escape responsibility for those actions.

We are, like it or not, inextricably interconnected. We cannot act in a bubble, like the characters do in Act I. In Act 2 they realize that everyone is at fault for the events that have befallen them. But the point is, who cares? At that point, blame is irrelevant.  However, there is the extremely positive message that it is only by working together, and forming a community, that problems which are much too large for them (us) individually to overcome can be conquered together…collective blame, but also collective solution.  And, as a person of Faith, I believe that “No One is Alone” is also message of hope and love and a peace that passes all understanding.

The most difficult job a director has is the casting of a production.  Connie says, “I am always so impressed with the caliber of talent we have in the Peoria area!  This production is a showcase for this pool of talent!  You will recognize some of the players, but there are also new faces -- some who have never stepped foot onstage!  But the quality of a production does not rely only on those on stage; I always try to surround myself with an excellent production staff. The music in this show, although beautiful, is extremely difficult…so, Susan Somerville Brown was my first pick as music director.  She is an accomplished musician who brings out the very best in the actors and the full orchestra (yes, we will be having a live orchestra)!  And Susan Hulen is our dedicated accompanist.  Michelle Loeffler rounds out the production staff as choreographer. But not enough can be said about those who never get the standing ovations -- lights (Wayne Carey), sound (Todd Pilon), props (Tinkie Demmin), costumes (Sue McGrew and Deb Nuske), makeup (Kieth Wagner-Stratton), production secretaries (Sue Weiss and Tracie Carey), set design (Julie Wasson) and construction (Brian Kuehn), the stage managers (Curt Johnson and Kristen Whitaker), and their crews who keep the show running smoothly.  Their commitment of time, energy, and expertise is the glue that holds a show together!”

The main lessons we learn from this production is that tolerance and understanding come when individuals stop putting some people down and putting others on pedestals. We cannot act in isolation, nor should we want to; for we can accomplish individually only a fraction of the things we can accomplish communally.  Appreciate what you have, realize what you want, accept what you can't have, and discover what you are capable of.  It is only when we start accepting each other's faults and acknowledging each other's strengths, that we can join together to combat the witches, the curses and the giants that face us all!

The production dates are February 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 pm, and February 5 and 12 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $19 for adults and $12 for those 20 and younger.  For reservations, please call the Peoria Players box office at (309) 688-4473.

Posted on January 30, 2017