Take a journey… ‘Into the Woods’

The Cayman Drama Society will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020. From humble acorns, great trees have grown over the years, sprouting productions from dramas to musicals and one-person acts to comedies. The musicals are always big draws, so no doubt the cast and crew of the upcoming ‘Into the Woods’ opening on 12 Sept. are hoping for another sell-out triumph.

Although many are probably more familiar with the film version, starring such heavy hitters as Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp, ‘Into the Woods’ started life as a show, first in San Diego in 1986 and then opening on Broadway in Nov. 1987. The music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, combined with the book by James Lapine, proved a hit with audiences and critics, garnering the musical 10 Tony nominations and three wins in its first run.

Since then, it has played on both sides of the pond and, as we all know, was adapted for the big screen for a 2014 release, directed by Rob Marshall. ‘Into the Woods’ features characters from many popular fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Cinderella, Rapunzel and a couple of princes are just a few of the familiar names to whom you will be reintroduced, although perhaps not as you remember them. Then there is the Witch, the Baker and his Wife and the cow, Milky White. There is a curse that must be broken, as is often the case in fairy tales, and lots of music ensues as the story unfolds.

Cast and crew Producer Sheree Ebanks, who is also the chairman of the Drama Society, is thrilled to see her dream of staging this production finally coming true. In fact, many involved in the show have long had the hope of seeing it on the local stage, including the directors Teri and Barrie Quappe and co-musical director Chuck Quappe.

It has been quite the undertaking for the actors and those behind the scenes, as the sets are elaborate and the musical score is extremely challenging.

“[This show] is a testament to the talent that we have in our small island,” says Ebanks.

“The stories intertwine with totally unexpected plot twists, thanks to James Lapine’s clever, very bold (and dark) look at what happens ‘happily ever after’. The cast and crew have accomplished something to remember and
have done [the work] justice.”

A few actors are actually pulling double duty in the show. Dominic Wheaton is Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf; Neil Hamaty is the Mysterious Man and Narrator; Vanessa Hansen is the Baker’s Wife and Grandmother; and Teri Quappe is the Witch and Cinderella’s Mother. As she is also co-directing the production, she must have cornered the coffee market over the last few months.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Teri says.

“There has also been a lot of blood, sweat and tears poured into it all. It’s our Everest [laughs]! It’s been really
nice to work with my mum [Barrie Quappe] on this.

“Working with a new cast is always a challenge at the beginning, but it has been wonderful to see them come into their own and become their characters,” she says.

Familiar faces such as Melody Allenger and Liam Oko play the parts of Cinderella and the Steward, respectively, mingling with cast members who are new to the Prospect Playhouse Theatre. Jose Zambrano gets his first kick at the can playing Rapunzel’s Prince, while Jardae Barnes is Little Red and Chad Powell is Jack (you know, the one with the cow and the beanstalk).

Not every production has the benefit of a live orchestra, but they are going all-out on this one. Chuck and Barrie Quappe, long known for their versatile Sea N’ B Band, cover the piano, percussion and drums in the orchestra, with Kate Allenger on violin, Amber McMillan on euphonium, Charity Putman on trombone and tuba, Roger ‘Bugs’ Wilson on acoustic bass and Emily Farren on clarinet, flute and piccolo. Anyone who attended the smash local production of ‘RENT’ will know what a difference having live musicians can make.

Creating sets for ‘Into the Woods’ was a mammoth task and there was a lot of pressure to make sure they impressed. None other than artist Tansy Maki was brought on board to bring the scenes to life, and with Violetta Kanarek and Charity Putnam working on costumes, the final result should not disappoint.

For the cast and crew, it is the triumphant conclusion to a long journey.

“Music rehearsals started in February,” Teri reveals. “It has been many months in the making, but I can honestly say that when the audience walks in, they will be blown away.”

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