• Lillie Burke

Belmont travels over the river and ‘Into the Woods’

In Belmont’s neck of the woods, ‘happily ever after’ is only the beginning.

As Lapine and Sondheim’s dark, twisted journey “Into the Woods” draws nearer, the musical theatre department is setting the stage for storybook-ready enchantment, riddled with an edge that sheds a new light—or darkness, rather—on the concept of ‘grimm’ fairytales.

“We’re trying to bring to life the darker elements of the story,” said resident director David Shamburger. “While there’s a lot of jokes and a lot of fairy tale humor in it—and there are some great morals in the story—there’s also a lot of darkness that I think is relevant to everybody’s lives when they see it.”

“It’s kind of a Tim Burton meets Sondheim—if Tim Burton were to do Into the Woods.”

Forget what you think you know about Disney-coated characters like Snow White, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk—in the usual fashion, there’s always more than meets the eye.

“Sondheim and James Lapine were brilliant in bringing out the idea that there are consequences to our actions,” said Shamburger. “That we all make choices in life, but those choices reverberate to not only yourself, but to many other people around you, and we ought to be conscious of what we say and do in front of other people. As the lyrics say, ‘Children will listen, children will see,’ and they will do. We want the audience to come to the realization that their lives do impact more than they think with the lives of others around them.”

While this will be the department’s debut show of the year, this is not the first time a Belmont stage will host “Into the Woods.” The musical was one of the department’s founding shows more than ten years ago.

However, the decision to tackle the Sondheim composition yet again was a unanimous one.

“We’ve not done Sondheim in a long time,” said Shamburger. “He’s like a genre in and of himself when it comes to musical theatre. One of the things we look at most is what students need educationally. We felt it was necessary to do a Sondheim—and this is the one Sondheim that has a very ensemble cast. “

Despite a limited budget and only having a week to rehearse in Massey Performing Arts Center with the set, lights and sound, the cast and crew behind the other-worldly performance are pulling out all the stops to make it what cast member Marnie Price can only deem a “full body experience.”

“Our sound and lighting crew are out of this world wonderful,” said Price, who is to portray the role of the witch, made iconic by Bernadette Peters in the show’s initial run. “The sound effects in this show are definitely like nothing Belmont has ever heard before. You may just have to come see the show to know exactly what I mean.”

Beyond the captivating costuming, aesthetics and storyline, Price believes the touch of genuine magic in the show lies in the spirit enlivened by those involved.

“Everything about our “Into The Woods” is magical,” said Price. “Who doesn’t want to experience magic? It is twisted and disturbing, yet enlightening and affirming.”

“I think that the main thing that stands out about our production is the sincerity behind all of the action,” added Price. “We are sticking to the more traditional route as far as creative production choices; however, each and every individual is so insanely connected to the message and their role that I believe our authenticity really comes out.  We are all committed to coming from a place of truth and heart felt connection.   The piece is so brilliant on it’s own that as performers all we really have to do is believe it, live it and tell the story.”

Tonight is the opening performance in MPAC, but the show will run through Nov. 17. Tickets are free to Belmont students with an ID.

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