Airing out the fairy tales’ dirty laundry

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The musical “Into the Woods” takes audiences into the world of fairy tales.

But the characters find themselves in a much darker corner of the forest than the original story tellers had pondered.

The musical by Stephen Sondheim weaves together the tales of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Rapunzel” and tosses in a few Prince Charmings for good measure.

Get Up Stage Company, with its cast of teen actors, performs the musical at Trinity-On-Main Aug. 10 to 12.

Bristol’s Kevin Michaud, who plays one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, said Sondheim’s show tells audiences, “You have to go into the woods to get what you need or what you want— such as in life when you must venture out into the world to find something. Every time you leave your house, you head into the woods.”

Michaud said, “I like that this message because it runs parallel to real life. Life can be scary and unknown.”

Southington’s Katerina Belales said the creators of “Into the Woods” are trying to show “there is more to the story after ‘happily ever after.’”

“All of act 2 is about the events and struggles that the characters face after receiving their happy endings,” said Belales. “Throughout this act, you realize that ‘happy endings’ are just small events that come and go throughout our lifetime, and that we will always face and overcome struggles as life goes on.”

“It’s very reassuring to the audience members that everyone, even ‘perfect’ fairy tale characters, will go through and overcome many struggles and important lessons in their lives,” said Belales.

Cassidee Knapik of Bristol, who plays Jack’s mother said,  “The message that stands out is finding your happy ending through your struggles.”

“In the show,” said Knapik, “the woods that the characters enter represents the challenges you may encounter in life. ‘The way is dark, the light is dim,’ according to the lyrics. But no one is alone. In the end you will find your ever after.”

“‘Into the Woods’ has taken my perspective of these fairy tale characters and flipped it. The characters like Cinderella and Rapunzel, actually had miserable existences and the fairy tales are actually quite dark and form a total contrast of the way we’ve come to know these characters from the Disney movies we knew as kids,” said Michaud.

“Growing up, I always believed these fairy tale characters to be absolutely perfect and have no flaws to them whatsoever,” said Belales. “Once I discovered this show a few years back, I realized that these characters were just ordinary people who face challenges in their lives — as we all do nowadays). They’re also not completely good or completely evil. There is a sense of complexity and realness to every character in the show.”

“The show brings out the different personalities of each character,” said Knapik. “You see something a little more than you would read in the classic fairy tales. My character is Jack’s Mother, who isn’t really shown a light on too much as a fairy tale character. In the show, however, you can see the comedy of her character and over all love for her son. Even Little Red Riding Hood, isn’t really the sweet character she is seen as in the books. She is sassy and spunky, while still showing her child-like personality.”

Sondheim, the composer, is known for pushing the boundaries of musical theater composition.

“The music has challenged me as a performer because Sondheim has a very specific style of writing music and uses unconventional rhythms and methods of composition that challenge performers and dumbfound those who have no previous experience with Sondheim,” said Michaud. “This is my first experience with Sondheim and it is difficult to adjust to his specific style of music.”

“I’ve always been a fan of Sondheim’s score for this show,” said Belales. “The complexity of the music and lyrics makes the score very unique and fun to listen to, but it also gives the audience and the performers themselves a lesson to learn and a challenge to think about what is being said.  Vocally, I’d say that it has definitely been one of the most challenging pieces of musical theater that I’ve worked with

“This music is incredibly difficult, and has helped me grow as a musician immensely,” said Knapik. There are so many difficult words and rhythms in the music, not to mention the crazy amount of key changes. It is a huge challenge to get out every word clearly and accurately…. When everything comes together the sound is beautiful in more ways than one.”

“Into the Woods” by the GetUp Stage company runs from  Aug. 10 to Aug. 12 with performances at 8 p.m. at Trinity-on-Main, 69 Main St., New Britain.

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