‘Into the Woods’’ transformative journey to enter Dunham Hall April 22

“Into the Woods” interweaves characters from the various Brothers Grimm fairy tale stories: “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella” and “Rapunzel” among others with transformations among cast members.

Alexis Ronan, Miles Tillman and Halley Robertson perform in SIUE's production of "Into the Woods." For ticket information contact the box office 618-650-2774 or toll free at 1-888-328-5168, extension 2774. Photo courtesy of SIUE marketing and communications department.

Professor Marc Schapman serves as musical director of SIUE’s production of the musical. He co-directs the cast of 20 students with theater and dance professor Peter Cocuzza.

The musical first opened on Broadway in 1987 in which Stephen Sondheim composed the score, and James Lapine, who authored the book also directed its debut.

According to Schapman, “Into the Woods,” was released as a movie in 2014, and the show is whimsical, comical, unbelievable, really sensitive and very romantic.

“The story lines represent a nice array of moments in the show,” Schapman said.  “It’s not always lovey dovey or slapstick. It’s always a roller coaster of emotions.”

Most people know these fairy tale stories and relate to the subject matter which also feature lots of themes, ideas and commentaries, according to Schapman.

Theater major Alexis Ronan, who plays the baker’s wife said her role is very challenging to play because she has to try to understand her character’s often-changing emotions.

“I can’t just play her at one level. Every single scene her emotions are very different. She has a very big heart. She’s very maternal. She’s very caring. But a lot of times she reaches a tipping point where she becomes opportunistic, or selfish,” Ronan said. “She was challenging for me because I couldn’t stay at one level the whole time.”

“In the Woods” is a beautiful show, according to Ronan, and has been one of her favorite musicals.

She said she hopes people will take away from that it is just like real life because although “happily ever after” occurs after Act I, the second half, according to Ronan, goes beyond “happily ever after.”

“It takes a fairy tale and it makes it reminiscent of real life,” Ronan said.

Junior music major Tyler Green, who plays Cinderella’s Prince, said his character has a lot of comedic moments and as his character is elevated in his status, he is very disconnected from the other characters.

He added that the Prince does not have a lot of common sense to deal with real world matters.

“He tries to be very charming and very seductive to get what he wants, and so that’s kind of a new thing I’m having to experiment with and that’s very fun for me,” Green said.

The story, according to Green, is very endearing, and he adds that there is a twist on these well-known fairy tales.

Green said it allows for the characters to be a bit more human.

“The audience ought to find at least one character to relate to in a lot of ways,” Green said.

He added it has a lot of laughs and great musicians within the show.

The qualities and melodies, according to Schapman, are very accessible to the audience.

“There is a repeated tune that burrows its way through the show,” Schapman said. “There’s a lot of repeated ideas musically. When you have a lot of repetition and melodies you walk away each night after rehearsal humming a tune in your head.”

Cocuzza, who has worked on several musicals together with Schapman said he thinks it is a win-win for both departments and their respective students.

According to Cocuzza, it is a challenge because music students get to act and theater students get to sing.

Schapman said one benefit is it gives students confidence who may think they are not singers.

“Anytime you have to step outside of your comfort zone, that’s a very vulnerable situation,” Schapman said. “That’s just part of growing up–taking chances and risks musically and theatrically.”

According to Schapman, coaching and teaching their weak spots is a form of education, and to watch the students strive to get better since the beginning rehearsals is fulfilling

“A couple of them discover how talented they already were,” Schapman said.

Junior theater major Shawna Trusty plays Little Red’s grandmother and the voice of the Giant and said being at rehearsal every day and working with the cast as actor along with seeing how they are onstage helps her efforts as also makeup designer.

Trusty said they use prosthetics in the show for the Witch and the Wolf.

The Witch does a full makeup and body transformation onstage which involves using prosthetics and masks, according to Trusty.

“That’s my biggest project,” Trusty said. “She is an ugly old hag, and then she suddenly becomes beautiful again.”

Schapman noted a big scene in the show where one character has an effect on what everyone else does within the show.

“In the end everyone realizes that when everyone does something that it has impact on everyone else and their actions have larger consequences (impact on other people) than we might have thought. That’s the morale of the story,” Schapman said.

Cocuzza noted that in a musical of this size and scope they are not only dependent on the skills of the singers and performers but the skills of the students who work backstage moving the scenery and running the sounds and lights.

“One part simply can’t work without the other, so one of the challenges of any production is to bring all the talents to bear each night,” Cocuzza said.

“Into the Woods” opens at SIUE’s Dunham Hall Theater on Wednesday, April 22 and runs through Sunday, April 26.  Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wed-Sat. and 2 p.m. on Sunday.  For ticket information contact the box office 618-650-2774 or toll free at 1-888-328-5168, extension 2774.

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