SEMO starts season with dark comedy 'Into the Woods'

Friday, September 23, 2011
The cast of "Into the Woods" rehearse on stage. (Kelso Hope)

The characters of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales must have never heard the saying "Be careful what you wish for." Audiences will see the consequences of certain wishes in the Tony Award-winning musical "Into the Woods."

Southeast Missouri State University Department of Theatre and Dance will start its 2011-2012 season with the dark comedy that features popular characters from childhood tales. The show starts Wednesday and runs through Oct. 2.

"It's wonderful to get what you wish for, but what you wish for has consequences," said actor Caleb Schaaf.

The musical is based on the book by James Lapine and has lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. It takes the plots from several Brothers Grimm fairy tales such as "Cinderella," "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" and weaves them together to show the reality after "happily ever after."

In the first act, the characters go into the woods to get what they wished for. In the second act, they have to deal with the ramifications of their wishes. It strips away the curtain and shows the reality of some of these tales.

"It's not your typical Disney fairy tale," said director Amy Fritsche.

According to Fritsche, the story is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and contains scenes taken straight from the tales -- some of them slightly gruesome. For example, in the Brothers Grimm version of "Cinderella," the stepsisters each get one of their eyes taken out by pigeons. This scene also takes place in "Into the Woods."

Schaaf plays Cinderella's Prince in the musical. He said his character differs from the typical prince charming because he is headstrong, arrogant and never satisfied.

"He's nice, but he mostly always thinks of what he wants," Schaaf said.

When preparing for his role, Schaaf drew inspiration from King Henry VIII.

The two "are similar in that they go after what they want, they get it and then they are not satisfied, so they go after someone else," Schaaf said.

Schaaf said the play illustrates real people in real situations. For example, Cinderella's Prince has royalty thrust upon him, even though that is not really what he wants.

Schaaf said that in the play the characters are going through the woods alone and trying to find what they want. He hopes from the musical audiences will take away the message "No one is alone. Someone is always out there rooting for you."

Fritsche said the lesson of the musical is the stories we tell each other have an effect and that the way we treat everyone has ramifications.

Fritsche, an assistant professor of theater and dance at Southeast, played the Baker's Wife in "Into the Woods" during her acting days. She has acted in commercials, films and on stage.

The version of the musical she acted in was modernized. However, she based her version firmly in the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

"It is important to serve the story as it was written," Fritsche said.

The musical has a history of success. In 1987, it received three Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical. It has also received the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical and the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.

Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Oct. 1 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Bedell Performance Hall at the River Campus.

Tickets are $20 and $17 and available at the River Campus box office, at Metrotix.com and 651-2265.

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