Fairy Tales Collide in MSP's "Into the Woods"

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“To grandmother’s house, to grandmother’s house,” that’s the insistent refrain that sets Little Red Riding Hood on her journey in “Into the Woods,” one of the most enchanted musicals to ever see the stage. McLeod Summer Playhouse will present this classic Tony Award winning Broadway musical June 16-18 and 23-25. The production is sponsored by Glenn and Jo Poshard.

With music and lyrics by American master composer Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, the show follows fairy tale characters as they collide in the woods searching for their dreams. Little Red is not alone in the dark scary forest. Also there, are Cinderella, Jack (with the magic-bean beanstalk), the Baker and his wife, Rapunzel, two princes and a put-upon witch.

Mash-ups of fairy tales likely go back for centuries. Long before TV’s current “Once Upon A Time,” “Into the Woods” captured contemporary audiences with its “put-them-together” concept.

The impetus for the show’s creation, according to a recent Playbill event celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the musical, was an interest in creating a television show in which sitcom characters got intermingled. Instead, the team used fairy tale characters and the musical was the result.

The Playhouse reimagines the musical with a blend of contemporary and fairy tale fantasy. This brand new production features a cast of 19. At the center of the story are the Baker and his wife who go into the woods to find the ingredients for a potion that will reverse the curse on their childless house. Eddie Ortega and Danae DeShazer play the afflicted couple. Lyndsay Manson is the curse-placing witch.

The Cinderella clan features Shelby Terrell as the “I wish to go to the festival” scrub-maiden, with Alexis Nwokoji as the malicious step-mother and Emily Turner and Asia Ward as her self-absorbed daughters. Cinderella’s Prince, the famous footwear-finder, is played by Jonathan Steffins.

Jack, the boy who trades his dying cow for magic beans, which grow the stalk that brings the giant to the country-side, is played by Aaron Chancellor Gilmer. Susan Patrick Benson, appearing by permission of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, is Jack’s practical-minded mother.

Little Red Riding Hood, who travels to pay a call on her sick granny, is played by Bailey Vincent. Malik Van Hoozer-Elliott plays the intercepting Wolf. Madison Pruitt plays Granny.

The girl with the hair that makes men swoon, Rapunzel, is played by Mikayla Cohen. Rapunzel’s swooning Prince is played by Stephen Rochet.

Andrew Lampley serves as the Narrator, with Casey Gulledge as the Mysterious Man, Josh Miller as Cinderella’s Dad and Michael Radford as The Steward.

At the crossing of the paths is director Wes Drummond who helps the actors navigate the richness of the play’s themes and ideas. Kevin A. Smith serves as musical director for the amazing score. Sets are designed by Grenville Burgess, with lighting by Will Coeur and fantastic fairy-punk inspired costumes by Jen Gillettte. Brandyn McGhee provides ears as sound designer.

“Into the Woods” plays June 16-18 and 23-25 at the McLeod Theater with performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $14 for student and $10 for children ages 12 and under. Tickets may be obtained Monday-Friday, noon-4:30 p.m. by phone at 618/453-6000 or in person at the McLeod Theater or SIU Arena box offices. They are also available at any time online at playhouse.siu.edu. Some fees apply to online and by phone purchases.

Princes stand back to back in Into the Woods

Cinderella perches dreamily in Into the Woods