‘Into The Woods’ a magical Sondheim challenge

‘Into The Woods’ a magical Sondheim challenge

“Sondheim is a genius. He has the ability to create music that sounds effortless,” says Shiloh Jones.

But that being said, the actors and singers working on the Arts Center of the Ozarks’ version of “Into the Woods” have some other things to say about composer Stephen Sondheim and storysmith James Lapine.

“The music is so difficult,” muses Sarah Mouritsen, who plays Cinderella. “It almost has no melody at some points, and the accompaniment doesn’t really give you any help.”

“The biggest challenge is keeping up with the tempo while getting all the lyrics out of my mouth,” adds Jennifer Nesbitt, who plays Jack’s mother. “The biggest reward is when it all comes together, and comprehensible words come out.”

“Creating calculated cacophony is much, much harder than I anticipated,” says Taylor Dolan, who plays Cinderella’s Stepmother. “But I’ve always liked a good challenge.”

Or as Jones said earlier in the rehearsal process, singing Sondheim in the shower is one thing. Singing Sondheim on stage is entirely another.

“I’ve never done a Sondheim show, and this music is so deceivingly difficult,” says Jones, who is playing the Baker’s Wife. “Every line or lyric is a tongue twister and/or riddle! I have never worked so hard on a show before.”

And yet, at a Saturday afternoon rehearsal with veteran director Julie Gabel, there are far more smiles than frustration. It’s easy to see on the faces of these actors that they’re having the time of their lives.

“Musicals have a certain magic to them,” says Dolan. “When all the instruments and voices come together, it’s divine.”

“It is a bucket list show for me,” says Brandon Hamilton, who portrays Rapunzel’s Prince, echoing a common sentiment among the cast. “I think audiences love it because it takes storybook characters that they know and love and turns them upside down.”

“I’ve been away from the theater for years, but I decided that overcoming my anxieties to do this thing that I love would be a healing and fulfilling experience,” says Cinderella’s Prince, Dalton Jones. “This show has reminded me how invaluable artistic expression is for the soul.”

“The audience is never going to find themselves dealing with these extraordinary fairy tale situations,” adds Michael Weir, who is, of course, playing multiple roles, among them the Narrator and the Mysterious Man. “However, I think the audience will be able to relate and sympathize with how the characters react and feel about what each of them has to face.”

“Being Cinderella is basically every girl’s dream,” says Mouritsen. “In this story, she is so smart and just overall a very kind soul and means well for everyone. I try to just do her justice.”

The premise of the show, which premiered on Broadway in 1987, is that the lives of characters like Cinderella, Rapunzel, their Princes, Jack (the one who climbs the beanstalk) and Little Red Riding Hood are woven together around the plight of the Baker (played by Shane Sturdivant at ACO) and his wife. They want to have a child, but their family tree has been cursed by the Witch from next door (Sarah Nickerson). If they wish to have the curse reversed, they need a certain potion first and must go on a quest in the woods; Red (Kayleigh Calaway) must go visit her grandmother; Jack (Titus Shaver) must sell his cow; Cinderella must evade the Prince; and Rapunzel (Victoria Greer) must keep her Prince a secret from her “mother,” the Witch.

“There are so many life lessons to learn from the different stories within this show,” says Mouritsen. “It makes you laugh, and it makes you cry.”

“I think all of the wonderful social messages playing out are a surprise,” adds Hamilton.

But don’t think it’s all lost love, flattened giants and morals of the story.

“The two Princes pretty much steal the show when they are on stage,” says Weir.

“I love watching ‘Agony’ with the two Princes,” agrees Jones. “It’s hilarious!”

“This show has many laughable moments mixed in with all the turmoil,” says Nesbitt. “James Lapine does such a good job with the characters that you don’t need to play for the laugh because they are so funny.”






‘Into the Woods’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7-8; 3 p.m. Feb. 9; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14-15; 3 p.m. Feb. 16

WHERE — Arts Center of the Ozarks, 214 S. Main St. in Springdale

COST — $20-$30

INFO — 751-5441, acozarks.org

Categories: Theater