"Into the Woods," the Stephen Sondheim musical that opens Capital Playhouse's season, tells the stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and Jack (of Beanstalk fame). But these fairy tales have a twist.
“Fairy tales have happily ever after,” said Danny Boman, who plays the Baker. “This is a different kind of fairy tale. You go into the woods when you have a sickness or a drug-abuse problem or any kind of emotional trauma. You have to go into the woods to get out of the woods.”
In other words, the 1987 triple Tony winner is what one would expect of Sondheim.
“The characters of ‘Into the Woods’ may be figures from children’s literature, but their journey is the same painful, existential one taken by so many adults in Sondheim musicals past,” Frank Rich wrote in a New York Times review the year the show opened.
“Like the middle-aged showbiz cynics who return to their haunted youths in ‘Follies’ and ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ or the contemporary descendant who revisits Georges Seurat’s hallowed park in ‘Sunday in the Park With George,’ or the lovers who court in a nocturnal Scandinavian birch forest in ‘A Little Night Music,’ Cinderella and company travel into a dark, enchanted wilderness to discover who they are and how they might grow up and overcome the eternal, terrifying plight of being alone,” Rich wrote.
The show is more accessible than most of Sondheim’s work, said Playhouse artistic director Jeff Kingsbury.
“We poll our audience members about what they would like to see,” he said. “We did this show about 10 years ago, and it’s been our most requested.
“Act I deals with the stories that people are familiar with in a unique way because they intermingle,” Kingsbury said. “Act II is about what happens after happily ever after. ... In Grimm’s fairy tales, the heroes and the heroines always seem perfectly justified in going after whatever they need to get their wish. Sometimes, they have to apply Machiavellian techniques to get them.
“The second act deals with the notion of ‘How is that really fair? And if it isn’t, what are the consequences for doing those things?’ ”
The characters of the Baker, played by Boman, and the Baker’s Wife are not characters from a fairy tale but new characters created for the musical.
“Every character has a struggle,” he said. “The Baker and the Baker’s wife want to have a child, but they’ve been cursed by the witch next door. They go into the woods in search of all of these objects the witch tells them they have to get to have the curse reversed.”
Boman, who moved to Olympia from San Diego to begin work as the playhouse’s resident choreographer, said he can relate to his character’s search for meaning.
“He’s sort of still growing up,” he said. “He’s still trying to figure out what life has set before him.
“I just moved to Olympia five months ago, and I’m still figuring out life and why I’m here.”