There is a message in St. Clair College’s Music Theatre Performance and Entertainment Technology Students’ musical Into The Woods, which opened on Saturday (April 20) and is currently running at the College’s downtown Chrysler Theatre. In this collection of well-known fables, with equally well-known characters, the message is simply be careful of the wishes you make.
The play, which could also be called the Baker’s Dilemma, starts off with a number of characters, well more than a baker’s dozen, traipsing and dancing, choreographed by Melissa Williams, through the woods on various pursuits. While there is nothing sinister about the misty forest there are a number of sinister characters among its bushes. In fact, the baker – played with astounding authenticity by Fynn Cuthbert – is in the woods to find objects to please a wicked witch whose curse has eliminated he and his wife’s ability to procreate. Kassandra DeLong brings a certain sophistication to the baker’s wife role and, like her partner, earns a well-deserved ovation.
Others in the woods include Little Red Riding Hood and her faux grandmother, Rapunzel, Jack, of beanstalk fame, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. All of the actors are St. Clair students who bring a high level of professionalism to a very large and demanding production.
One of the most beloved characters is inside a cow costume. Although wearing a fixed expression mask, Katherine Ostojic continually surprises with her startling ability to bring a unique personality to Milky-White, Jack’s cow. To fend off the rigours of the coming winter, Jack’s mother, Autumn Debassige, dispatches him to sell the failed cow. Although she doesn’t give milk, she holds a spot in his heart. He objects with one of many wonderful lines in a play in which most of the dialogue rhymes. His plea is almost Dr. Seuss like: “the lump on her rump is big enough to be a hump.”
His pleading fails and off into the woods he goes. The first act precisely mirrors the writings of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, slightly adapted for the woods. Nathanael Judah, in the role of prince finds his Cinderella. The play’s second prince, Jakub Brubaker, connects with Rapunzel. Both play dual roles, nicely giving each the personification required with Judah highly devilish as Red Riding Hood’s wolf while Brubaker is a curious mystery man who pops in every once in a while. Narrator Akira Ly also pops in adding story line continuity.
While things end on a high note, as the respective fairy tales do, all goes completely asunder in Act Two. Happiness vanishes as author James Lapine takes the play into new territory that, except for the characters, bears little resemblance to the fairy tales. Even Ly’s character meets a sad fate. Her protestations about technically not being involved in the play’s action are ignored as are the storylines of the Brothers Grimm and Perrault.
Dilemmas pile up for the poor baker, including having his house crushed by the angry wife of the giant at the top of Jack’s bean stalk. She wants to exercise revenge on Jack for her husband’s untimely death. She also crushes the castle of Cinderella’s prince while Rapunzel takes to running through the woods screaming. Without question, while Faith Farnham is a darn good screamer, she is also a charming actor.
And then there is the baker’s wife, who has an extra marital affair with Rapunzel’s prince. The witch, on the other hand, does a bit better. When she sips a glass of the milk from Milky Way, after bringing her back to life and apparently restoring her milking credentials, she regains her beauty and youth, or vice versa. The price of course – be careful of your wishes – is a loss of her powers.
The students spent over two months assembling a most inspiring set with giant trees which were continually in motion about the stage. Doing the moving is a separate crew of technicians including student Kaitlyn Zantingh. She tells Eyes on Windsor she spent the play physically relocating Rapunzel’s famed tower.
Her crew also designed and painted a few of the smaller props while an outsourced resource, to maintain consistency of executing the vision of set designer Robert Ivy, created and painted the spectacular towering trees of the woods and the cottage facades of the baker, Jack and Cinderella’s mother. The outstanding design has a cartoon simplicity which collectively creates a genuine “wow” effect and a presentation not seen that often in the city.
About the only equal to the scenery is the costumes, painstaking designed by Agatha Knelson to the slightest detail and the greatest amount of cloth, and finery, as befitting the 18th Century characters.
Seven experienced freelance musicians, some who have played with the Windsor Symphony, under the direction of conductor John Karr bring the musical’s score, written by Stephen Sondheim, not only to life but add the crowning touch to a most outstanding production. If only for its whimsical value, it is a must see.
Saturday’s opening will be followed by performances on April 24, 25, 26, & 27. Showtime is 7:30pm each night except for the Sunday matinee which will start at 2pm. Tickets, adults $20, students $10 (plus fees) are available online or by contacting the Chrysler Theatre Box Office at 519-252-6579.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.