Jerusalemites are about to have the chance to experience first-hand why Into the Woods was not only a Broadway phenomenon but also continues to be a favorite among community theater fans and musical lovers everywhere.
Those familiar with (okay, obsessed with) the show – those dedicated fans who have been joyfully singing its praises (and its songs) for years – look forward to seeing the rich high-energy iteration of the hit show prepared by Starcatcher, which for a decade has been delivering some of the theater world’s most challenging popular shows to appreciative audiences.
Those who have no idea what Into the Woods is about, have a surprising, thought-provoking and delectable treat awaiting them.
So what is the show about? Director Yaeli Greenblatt brings us up to speed on the basics.
“Into the Woods, a stage musical composed by Stephen Sondheim and scripted by James Lapine, retells the fairy tales of Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and the Grimm Brothers’ renditions of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, interconnecting these classic tales with the story of a baker and his wife going on a quest to break an infertility curse.”
“Into the Woods, a stage musical composed by Stephen Sondheim and scripted by James Lapine, retells the fairy tales of Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and the Grimm Brothers’ renditions of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, interconnecting these classic tales with the story of a baker and his wife going on a quest to break an infertility curse.”Yaeli Greenblatt
It sounds cute, doesn’t it? It is, to a degree. But it is also much more than that. This brilliantly reimagined take on some of Western civilization’s most well-known fairy tales twists and intertwines them to issue a warning about the effects of the stories we pass down to future generations.
With catchy music, clever lyrics, ample humor and surprising plot turns, the play wends its way to a cozy expected fairy tale ending. But don’t be fooled and leave the theater yet, as this is only the end of Act I. It seems like the play should be over at this point, but the roller coaster ride has actually just begun.
Act II then plunges us even deeper into the woods, where destruction and mayhem happen – exploring the repercussions of the characters’ actions after the “happily ever after.”
Yaeli, why is Starcatcher staging this show this year?
This is our 10th anniversary. We’ve always had a wish list of shows, and we’ve been doing them one by one, year after year. Starcatcher is always looking for challenges, and this is a project that we are all excited about. The music is incredible, and it’s going to sound great. It’s a difficult show to produce, but we are making the production sound fresh and amazing, while still preserving its classical charm.
On a more personal note, choreographer Hallel Hanoch adds, “At the end of the day, there is only one reason to do this show: It’s brilliant and awesome. It’s one of the most well-written shows musically and in terms of the lyrics and the story.
“So many people love it and feel personally connected to it. A friend recently asked me, ‘Is this that show you were obsessed with in seventh grade and wouldn’t stop singing?’ And I said, ‘Yep, that would be the one.’ And that’s how it is now. Many seventh graders (and others of all ages) are still obsessed with Into the Woods and will continue to be for a long time to come.”
Yaeli, is Into the Woods a children’s show?
In theory, you can bring children to it. But even though it is based on well-known children’s stories and has a lot of humor in it, it’s quite a dark musical. It is interesting, philosophical, deep and complex – all things that I love about theater and that Starcatcher excels at dealing with.
Hanoch expands, “Into the Woods is rich, not only in themes and details and characters but also in the deep and relatable human feelings that the show brings out and that people of all ages can relate to. So particularly for the younger crowd, we will stage one especially family-friendly performance of the first act only, terminating with the happy fairy tale ending.
Yaeli, is there a main lead performer or is it an ensemble show?
Interestingly, it is kind of a hybrid of both, something that might be called a ‘star vehicle.’ It features so many interesting characters, providing real opportunities for actors to excel and share. The result is a group of talented people who all are creating together, yet they each get to bring to life a really well-defined character. For me, this is really exciting because we have so many talented people in the community who can excel with significant roles.
This ‘star vehicle’ aspect is undoubtedly one of the things that attracted so many top performers to act in the 2014 Walt Disney Productions award-winning film version, such as Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, James Corden, Emily Blunt, and Johnny Depp.
Is this a play with a message?
Definitely. We grew up seeing these stories through a sanitized fairy tale filter providing a nicer, fairer, more pleasant, more palatable and heroic version of life where bad people are punished and good people are rewarded.
Into the Woods doesn’t do that. It is an eye-opening journey that embraces the violence, horror and moral ambiguity that were in the original Grimm stories. It was written to be unsettling, to leave you with a pit in your stomach, asking, ‘Is this what life is like?’
And the answer is ‘Yes.’
“Sometimes life is frustrating and unfair, and there aren’t clear moral divisions. Every character in this play can be seen as both a hero and a villain. They hurt each other and get hurt by each other. There is pain and sorrow, but also joy and laughter. There is something nihilistic about it, but in the end there is hope – a light you can hold in front of this abyss of darkness.
The play powerfully illustrates the fact that there are always going to be giants in the world that we need to band together to overcome. But as the characters resonantly reassure us at a critical point in the action, ‘No one is alone.’
Starcatcher, in partnership with the Incubator Theater, will perform Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods at Jerusalem’s newly renovated Gerard Behar Theater from March 2 to 16. The production will be performed in English with Hebrew subtitles and will feature a live band. ❖
On March 16 at 5 p.m., there will be a special family-friendly “happily-ever-after” matinee performance of Into the Woods – Act One, focusing on the tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk, abridged to a run time of 90 minutes.
If you can’t wait until opening night to get your fix of Into the Woods gossip and lore, catch the lively Starcatcher podcast on Spotify for enjoyable and insightful banter about the play.
To purchase tickets: www.incubator.org.il/into-the-woods