Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to turn a few homespun fairy tales into something new, interesting and, well, complex. Like much of his music, the musical Into
the Woods has dissonance and discord, and things are never what they appear to be. There are not one but two charming princes, a few princesses—one who keeps losing her precious shoe and another with very, very long tangled hair—and an obnoxiously precocious girl clad in red. If you've done any sort of reading in childhood—or seen a Disney movie, for that matter—you know of whom I speak.
Oh, yes. And, there's a Baker and His Wife.
Putting their own unique stamp on this Sondheim favorite, Westport's Staples Players won rave reviews during the show's opening weekend. Directed by David Roth, head of Staples High School's drama department, and his wife Kerry
Long, tickets are still available for this weekend's shows.
Performances are Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15, adults, and $10, students. Reservations may be made online at staplesplayers.com or by calling 203-341-1310.
A quick sample of the Staples' production could be found at YouTube:
Kerry was thrilled by the stellar crowd last weekend. She said, “Our students have risen to the challenge of this difficult show with such grace. They have really embraced it and made it their own. It was great to look around the audience and see so many people of all different ages enjoying it. On Sunday afternoon I watched a boy who looked like he was three years old, at the most, sit through the whole thing and then rush up on stage afterward to get autographs from the cast. We love that this show can touch so many people of different ages in different ways.”
Maddy Rozynek, a tenth grade student, was excited to be cast as Little Red Riding Hood. “The character has a lot of personality, which I can relate to, but she's
a little more bratty,” Maddy said in a telephone interview.
No newcomer to the Staples' stage, Maddy was featured as one of the Spanish girls last fall in Staples' production of West Side Story. Beginning in fourth grade, Maddy took classes at Center Stage Theatre Company and her love of theater was nurtured by its founder, Jill Jaysen. With Center Stage, Maddy performed Off-Broadway in an original musical called “Chocolate Soup.” She was also cast in a New York City musical revue featuring songs by new composers.
As thrilling as it was to be cast in this show, Maddy was equally excited to share the stage with Broadway veteran Anthony Rapp of “Rent.”
“That was very cool,” Maddy said.
Mingling with real, live theater folks—that is, those who not only make a living but practice their craft well—is an important educational component of Staples'
theater curriculum. Kerry said she and David were pleased to hear that Fairfield County resident Joanna Gleason, who won three prestigious honors—the Tony, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award—for her portrayal of the Baker's Wife in the original Broadway production, would lend her talents to the Staples'
production of Into the Woods. Joanna generously recorded the voice of The Giant, which is heard during each performance. She also visited with the cast for more than an hour a few weeks ago and candidly shared her expertise on the musical and show business, in general, Kerry noted.
“Joanna is not only a fantastic actress, but also a well-versed educator,” Kerry said.
I was fortunate to catch Joanna's performance in the original Broadway production and would confirm that she earned all of the awards she received. Before I saw the show, I had heard Into the Woods described as a fun-loving musical containing fairy tale characters whose lives get twisted around in the second act. It's not exactly 'happily-ever-after' in the ways the audience may come to expect, based on childhood stories they may have heard, but issues are
resolved in compelling ways. We care about Sondheim's characters because they are more human than the fables we had been told. For example, Rapunzel may be beautiful but she is also cunning—and her singing all day in the tower is actually more annoying than soothing as I, at least, was led to believe. The musical's underlying themes don't go out of style, which is why the Staples' production was so well-received last weekend.
Don't miss out on yet another entertaining show performed by some of Westport's talented teens.
Tickets can be purchased in advance online at staplesplayers.com or in the Staples High School lobby, March 22 and 23, 12:30 to 2:00 PM (cash or check only). Available tickets will also be sold at the door beginning 30 minutes before curtain. Students: $10, Adults: $15. Call 203-341-1310 for further information. All performances at Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.