Amidst the lull that falls between post-midterm relief and Thanksgiving break, the DeWitt mainstage continues to bustle. Since the third week of school, the students and professors of the theatre department have been working to memorize, arrange and design a production of Steven Sondheim’s classic musical, “Into the Woods.” Opening on Broadway 31 years ago, this musical has been performed countless times across countless productions in some of the world’s most significant theatres.
Sondheim is one of the biggest names in musical theatre. In case you haven’t heard of this specific piece, he also lyricized “West Side Story” and wrote the music for “Sweeney Todd.” The cast of roughly twenty students spans from freshmen to seniors, and they have a lot to show for their hard work. As Little Red, Jack (of beanstalk fame), Cinderella and other classic Grimm’s fairytale characters pop in and out, the weaving threads of the plot remain refreshingly clear. Sondheim has given each character goals to work toward and has crafted these to remain distinct but not overtly cliché. Working with widely known characters allows the show to feel almost sequel-like; the exposition bows aside, letting the plot stand center-stage. Not to give too much away, the plot is very relationship -oriented. There are multiple tight-knit families in play, and by the finale, the web of characters moves as a single entity, rather than in individual directions. The intricacies of subplot interactions create a very deep and lifelike story that is a joy to watch unfold. The set is in a semi-thrust configuration.
Most of the action takes place behind where the curtains would fall, but there is a peninsula of stage peeking forward around the orchestra pit. This unique setup changes the experience depending on the seating chosen: Do you want the opportunity to be feet from the actors? Do you want to perch above the orchestra to hear the full, unfiltered instruments? Or would you prefer the more traditional head-on experience? The orchestra is from Hope’s own music department, containing more student talent. The vocal performances intertwine with the instruments to create—well, musical theatre. An arrangement of percussion, brass, strings and more fills the space quite well without overpowering the actor’s lines.
This is the second of four mainstage productions put on by the Hope theatre department this year; beyond that, there are also smaller productions put on by seniors of the department or directing classes. The show opens tonight, Nov. 14, in the DeWitt main theatre at 7:30 p.m. There are shows each night through Saturday, and it closes with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday Nov. 18 (did we mention that it’s free for Hope students?). We hope to see you there—just watch out for wolves!