The cast of “Into the Woods” performs for the audience Wednesday, Nov. 9 during dress rehearsal. The costumes and lighting helped tell a dark tale of adored fairytale characters. Photo courtesy of Sammie Wuensche
“I wish, more than anything…” sings the cast in the opening number of “Into the Woods,” Pepperdine’s fall musical that opens Friday night. The show will take a visit to the King’s festival, a trip to Granny’s house, to the top of the beanstalk and more when Smothers Theatre is transformed into a bewitching wonderland for the Stephen Sondheim production from Friday, Nov. 11 to Saturday, Nov. 19. Hollace Starr, Pepperdine’s associate professor of Theatre, is directing the show.
Sophomore Jace Vendelin, who plays the wolf and Rapunzel’s prince, said for audiences to think about traditional fairytale characters — with a twist.
“Imagine all of the most popular fairytale characters you know, and flip their stories upside down,” Vendelin said.
“Into the Woods” tells the story of a childless baker and his wife as they travel into the woods to lift a curse a wicked witch places on them, which prevents them from having a child. Along the way, they run into other fairytale characters with troubles of their own they must navigate.
The woods prove to be a magical and twisted place for all who enter, where Cinderella is always falling, and the baker’s wife is always fawning.
The production, which falls under the genre of a dark comedy, has many opportunities to showcase its cast and music. It covers themes of family, choices and the grim side of getting everything one wants. Starr said the initial vision for Pepperdine’s production was a collaboration of ideas — comparing it to Shakespeare’s works and being open for interpretation.
“You can set it in kind of the classic fairytale rendering of it with the woods and a similar approach to the Broadway version, but you can also do anything with it,” Starr said. “So, the playwright and lyricist and composer talk about a production where it was in a room with 12 doors; it’s just so malleable.”
Starr said she wanted to incorporate some elements of classic Disney fairytales, however, she wanted to add other elements as well. She said she wants the audience to walk away with a better understanding of the human condition.
“I think the play ultimately is about human community and how we are naturally driven to pursue our individual wants, but we are better when we reflect on the ways in which our wants and needs intermingle with the wants and needs of others,” Starr said.
Alongside the director, the cast also said they have worked hard on the production — and for many, this is their final musical at Pepperdine. Senior Penny Devlin, who plays Cinderella, said the show and rehearsal process bring feelings of excitement and nostalgia.
“This has definitely been my favorite performance and experience of my college career,” Devlin said. “Not only is Cinderella a dream role of mine, but transferring from another college to Pepperdine has been a journey itself, and to be able to end that journey doing one of my favorite musicals in one of my favorite parts with people that I consider family — has been a dream.”
Devlin is not the only one enjoying their final performance to the fullest. Senior Sam Brock, who plays the narrator, said it has been a special experience to put on this show and work so closely with the rest of the cast with a good sense of camaraderie.
“I think it’s really nice to enjoy the moments you have with these people,” Brock said. “Everyone’s going to be going off and doing their thing, and some people are going to pursue this, and some aren’t. It’s very special to be in this moment with these people one last time.”
The cast and director alike said the audience should expect to travel into an adult’s fairytale story, with favorite storybook characters and twisted turns. Vendelin said everyone wishes for things just like the characters, although their stories end a little differently.
“We all wish for things, and so do all the characters, but do they really want what they wish for?” Vendelin said.
Senior Brykell Killingsworth, puppeteer for Milky White, described the show as a magical take on a realistic world.
“Being in a realistic world where creatures can do magical things is amazing – it’s definitely a new experience,” Killingsworth said.
Brock said the show has a little something for everybody to enjoy, and the cast wants everyone to get involved with the characters’ journeys through the woods.
“It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s serious, it pulls your heartstrings, it tells really beautiful stories, but also has times where you can just relax and enjoy,” Brock said.
Tickets are on sale now on the Pepperdine Arts website and at the box office. They cost $10 for students and faculty and $20 for the general public. The show leaves the audience when they sing the final words, “I wish…”
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