A new twist on childhood fairy tales

SAXTONS RIVER — From Grandma's attic to the wild woods of childhood fairy tales, Main Street Arts has put a new twist on Stephen Sondheim's musical "Into the Woods."

The MSA production opens Friday for a two-weekend run at the arts center.

Director David Stern has described his concept of the show as a "very unusual" production, with this version asking more of the audience and performers and giving more in return.

"To travel with us, you will have to engage your imagination," he said. "This is a flight of fancy, an imaginative play in grandma's attic, where trees may be made from old shutters and Rapunzel's tower a ladder."

Indeed, Stern's set is littered with the flotsam and jetsam of the lives lived in the house below: trunks, discarded furniture, old windows, broken shutters, rusty tools, bric-a-brac and a child's outgrown dollhouse and toys. As they move into their characters, the actors employ what they find: an old bed becomes a platform, a Christmas tree apron becomes Red Riding Hood's cape, a feather duster serves as a weapon against a giant and a hobby horse becomes Prince Charming's ride. Musical director Ken Olsson also jumps on stage at one point to menace Little Red as the Wolf in a bear hat.

Little Red, Cinderella, Jack (and his mother and the cow he sells for a handful of beans), Rapunzel and a childless baker and his wife begin a musical adventure in the attic that sets them off on a journey in search of happy endings. Along the way, they meet other storybook characters and a witch whose magic may or may not help them make their heart's desires come true.

The music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Lapine weave together the plots of old favorites by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault as they wander through the woods of their fantasies.

"Sondheim wrote an imaginative play for adults," Stern said. "We begin with adults really playing as children, without the complexities of adult life."

While the first act follows the familiar fairy tale lines, the second act explores the adult themes of struggling parents, loss, grief, suffering in general and the insight gained from them.

For that reason, Stern recommends parents use their judgment and consider bringing children to the first act only.

The cast includes familiar faces and some new ones. Morganna Ekkens (Baker's Wife), Brandon Norman (Mysterious Man,Narrator), Andrew Flaherty (Baker), Robin Keefe (Cinderella), and Dom DiBenedetto (Cinderella's Prince) all appeared in the recent MSA production of "Little Shop of Horrors," while Victor Brandt (Steward), Libby McCawley (mother to Jack and Cinderella), Zac Binney (Rapunzel's Prince), anSally Regentine (Granny, Florinda) all appeared in the March production of "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

Rounding out the cast are Abbie Ladd (Giant, Lucinda), Cassie Dunn (Little Red), Henry O'Connell (Jack), Carolee Williams (Witch), Sophie Bady-Kaye (Rapunzel, Milky White), and Amy Cann (Stepmother).

Dunn, Bady-Kaye and O'Connell come to MSA with a strong theater background at the New England Youth Theatre in Brattleboro.

Others involved in the show are Liz Guzynski and Lyn Stanford, who built the set, and stage managers Barbie Kurkul and Ronnie Friedman.

Performances are Friday, Nov.10 and Saturday, Nov. 11,  and also on Nov. 17 and 18, at 7:30 p.m., plus a matinee at 2 p.m. this Sunday. Matinees at 2 p.m. are also on Nov. 18 and 19.

Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door and $10 for youth.

Further information about MSA and reservations are available at mainstreetarts.org, on Facebook or by contacting MSA at 802-869-2960 or info@mainstreetarts.org.


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