Center Players present new show
Once upon a time leads to happily ever after, but what comes later? Come “Into the Woods” with the Center Players Community Theater over the next week to find out.
The show’s music director Benton Donahue, an Ole Miss sophomore, calls the Tony Award-winning show with songs by Stephen Sondheim ‘“musically fantastic” and a “musical spectacle.”’ Co-director Megan Mayhan says the production is probably the biggest challenge the community theatre group has put on stage in years.
Cast members, through their acting and their voices, accept the challenge and soar, co-director Mandy Hackman says. “The level of talent that showed up (for auditions) made it difficult to cast. The talent runs deep in this show. Such gorgeous voices.”
The appeal of the show is why the Center Players decided to double the usual number of performances, Mayhan said. “For true theater fans, this show will bring in the crowds. You need to see it more than once, to catch all the small moments that make it so great.”
“Into the Woods” tells its story in two acts through unforgettable songs. “The first act is strictly a fairy tale,” Donahue said. “The second act is when real life kicks in.”
The opening song in the first act is very impressive, said Donahue, who added that directing the music in any Sondheim show is the chance of a lifetime. “The opener is 14 minutes long. Everyone at some point appears in it.”
The musical weaves together familiar fairy tale characters – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of beanstalk fame, Rapunzel and more. Cinderella wishes to attend the Kind’s Festival. Little Red wants bread for her Granny. Jack wants his cow to give milk. In the woods, they all meet the Baker and the Baker’s Wife, who want a child but a Witch’s curse hovers over them.
“It’s a fun and fresh take on familiar stories,” Hackman said. “At the end of Act 1, all the characters think the story is done.”
Then in Act 2, the consequences of their actions, and their answered wishes, haunt them, sometimes with disastrous results. And yet, there is hope at the end of the show that arises through a spirit of community among the characters.
“Even if something sad happens in the second act, the story shows there is still hope for a bright, shiny happy ending,” Hackman said.
Brittnye Aven, who portrays the Witch, said the story shows that no character is all good or all bad. “There are parts of both in everyone. It just asks which path are you going to take.”
As the chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Madison Ridgeland Academy, Aven said she expects her students to be surprised when they see her as the Witch. “I don’t think they will recognize me, but they will love seeing me in an opposite role of who I am. I am soaking up the fun of playing this character.”
“Into the Woods” runs about 2.5 hours, including a 15-minute intermission. The curtain rises Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week (June 8-10) and next week (June 15-17) at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday afternoon (June 11 and June 18), the show begins at 2 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.thecenterplayers.org and cost $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, students and military. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office 30 minutes prior to each performance.
The cast includes a mix of Center Player veteran performers and newcomers to the theater group. In the cast are: Josh Watson, Narrator; Stella Allen, Cinderella; Mabry Smith, Jack; Katy Mahan, Milky White; Thomas Earl, Baker; Genevieve Moore, Baker’s Wife; Roxie Hood, Cinderella’s Stepmother; Lucy Ledford, Lucinda; Lilly Temple, Florinda; Ella Joyner, Sleeping Beauty; Connie Black, Jack’s Mother; Elizabeth Yeager, Little Red Riding Hood; Brittnye Aven, Witch; Sam Blanton, Cinderella’s Father; Annelise Self, Cinderella’s Mother/Snow White; Benton Donahue, Mysterious Man; Bradley Davis, The Wolf and the show’s choreographer; Mahri McLean, Rapunzel; Charlie Earl, Rapunzel’s Prince; Emma Ellard, Granny; Omari Daniels, Cinderella’s Prince; Kyle Austin, Steward; Parker Montgomery, The Giant.