“Into the Woods” takes a new spin on fairy tales

Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Cinderella’s mother, the Baker and his wife all come together in CSUN’s latest theatre production of a classic Tony Award winning musical.

“Into the Woods” combines classic fairy tale characters into one story, questioning the real significance of “happily ever after.”

“Essentially it is a series of fairy tales that all collide into each other” said Garry Lennon, director of “Into the Woods” in an e-mail interview.

“Act one starts with ‘once upon a time’ and ends with ‘happily ever after.’ Act two tells what happens AFTER ‘happily ever after.’

The two and a half hour with an intermission musical is based on a book by James Lapine and it includes music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

It is presented by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

Lennon said the script was created in 1987 by Lapine and Sondheim.

“It doesn’t get any better than Sondheim,” said Tyler Heckathorn, 26, a senior, who plays the role of “Jack.”

“There are just layers of subtext that Sondheim writes into his shows that can be very satisfying for an audience member. There is an overall depth that Sondheim provides to his characters and plots, which is intellectually intriguing and yet completely entertaining.”

Lennon said CSUN’s production has a total of 23 cast members which perform on stage which include theater majors, music majors and other majors as well that range in class standings from freshmen to graduate students.

He added at least another 30 students work backstage in the production area.

For some cast members, the most challenging part of participating in the musical has been the amount of work and time spent preparing.

“All of us work as a team to put on such a production, and on top of our work here in the theater we have to keep up with our studies,” said Kelsey Porter, 20, a sophomore theatre major, who plays the role of “Florinda” and assists Paula Higgins, costume designer.

“But we love what we do. I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.

Porter said “Florinda” is the eldest stepsister.

“She is a greedy, self-centered girl who only cares about herself even at the expense of others,” added Porter, who said she has been performing ever she can remember.

“In a way she is naive as she has been sheltered by her mother,” she said.

Heckathorn, who has been performing for about 16 years, said “Jack” is a 14 to 15-year-old boy that lives with his mother and their cow “Milky White.”

The cow, he added, “is his best friend, like a dog would typically be to a kid. He (Jack) is anxious to get out there and experience the world he hasn’t really seen.”

Heckathorn said one of the things he likes about performing is the idea of being someone else and getting inside someone else’s head and walking in their shoes.

“I love telling a story to an audience, and hopefully teaching them a lesson” he said. “I love to entertain.”

Lennon said the script and music have been the biggest challenges in directing the musical.

“The script is complicated and very layered, it keeps shifting story lines and characters throughout so it has been a challenge to keep the story moving forward but making sure the audience can follow the action,” he said. “Sondheim’s work is dense and intricate and it’s hard to sing.”

Lennon said he wants audiences to walk away with a sense of family and community, which he said is a theme that strikes a chord with him, after seeing “Into the Woods.”

“We’re all connected to each other in many ways and our lives, like the characters in the musical, intersect and overlap with others,” he said. “How we treat each other, how we solve our daily dilemmas and how we form our “families” denies who we are.”

Porter said she encourages those whom have never been to a stage performance to go see “Into the Woods.”

“It is a unique experience,” she added. “It is a type of entertainment that involves the audience, as they play as big a role as the performers.”

Heckathorn said although the characters have been seen before, “this new tale is worth a second glance.”

“Into the Woods” will run from April 23 to April 25 and again from April 28 to May 2 in the Campus Theatre, Nordhoff Hall 100.

Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesdays to Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Admission is $13 for students and $20 for general admission which may be purchased at the Student Union Ticket Office. Other discounts are available for senior citizens and early bird students. Ticket packages are also available.