Life after “happily ever after”
Into The Woods
Ever wondered what comes after “happily ever after"? Once the villains have been defeated and true love triumphs, once enchantments have been reversed and disguises revealed, surely the story goes on. And people, being people, can find ways to screw up even the neatest of resolutions. So … what happens next? That’s the question posed by Carson Performing Arts’ production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
The story blends the familiar fairy tales of “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Little Red Riding Hood” with a new tale that links them all together—the Baker and his Wife. Cursed with childlessness, the baker begs the witch to undo her spell. She agrees, in return for four magical items she needs for a spell of her own: Jack’s cow, Red’s cloak, Cinderella’s slipper and Rapunzel’s hair. The conniving baker and his pragmatic wife weave in and out of the fairy-tales-in-progress, coaxing and bullying the heroes and heroines to give up the precious items.
After many misadventures, they bring all four items to the witch, and she reverses the baker’s curse; the items go into a spell to undo a curse laid upon the witch herself, stripping her of her powers but restoring her youth and beauty.
Meanwhile, Cinderella wins her Prince Charming, Rapunzel finds love with her own handsome prince, Jack climbs the beanstalk and tricks the giant, and Red rescues her grandmother from the wicked wolf. It’s a perfect fairy-tale ending.
Now, flash forward a year or so. Prince Charming is a sleazy philanderer; Rapunzel’s prince is hen-pecked and bitter; the baker’s wife is nagging him for a bigger house; and worst of all, the giant’s widow has shinnied down the beanstalk and is out to kill Jack for revenge, destroying the countryside as she goes. If they are to survive, these hapless characters must find a way to band together and come up with a creative solution to their common enemy. There’s no “happily ever after” this time—whatever they choose, they must face the consequences of their actions. Welcome to our world.
Director Jason Macy and his cast of young actors bring this fun, mildly naughty musical to life. Briana Valley, playing Cinderella, has a strong voice and an appealingly plaintive charm. Daniel Jolly, as Jack, exudes a likable naivete, though he doesn’t get enough opportunities to show off his own excellent voice. Tara Rispin, as the baker’s wife, is wryly funny in her foot-stamping determination, but it’s Karen Chandler’s wicked witch who steals scenes with her comic timing and impressive vocals—even stuck behind a rubber crone mask and flowing white wig.
The play is also a treat for the eyes, with a clever “forest” made of rows of vertical brown banners to suggest trees, and a multi-purpose tower suitable for imprisoning princesses or displaying kindly spirits. The characters’ lavish costumes are drawn from various historic periods, from Renaissance to Restoration to Victorian, with eye-poppingly bold colors and designs. And, at stage left, a crumbling wall built from stacks of books hidden beneath climbing vines makes a witty allusion to the fairy tales the script draws upon.
Despite a few opening-night difficulties with sound levels and microphones, the production is, for the most part, well staged, and the performers are energetic and capable. Well worth the drive down to Carson City, this is one fairy tale you won’t want to end.