Review: Take a musical journey ‘Into the Woods’

The Cayman Drama Society has taken on the task of staging some demanding musicals in the last few years, but its latest production – ‘Into the Woods’ – is arguably the most challenging yet.

With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, ‘Into the Woods’ is three hours (including intermission) of almost nonstop action, comedy and drama with a healthy chunk of the dialogue being sung rather than spoken by the cast members. It should therefore come as no surprise that rehearsals for this show started in February in order to have the actors confident in their parts by opening night.

Story

Despite the fact that many characters’ names will be familiar, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Jack (of Beanstalk fame), audience members may be surprised to see how their particular stories unfold. ‘Into the Woods’ is more focussed on the original Brothers Grimm tales, rather than the sanitised versions that Disney has served up in the past.

The lives of a baker and his wife who are desperate to have a child become intertwined with those of a witch and a host of others who cross their path. Will everyone enjoy a happy ending? That remains to be seen.

Cast and crew

The mother-daughter team of Barrie and Teri Quappe have taken on the task of directing the local production, with Barrie Quappe pulling double duty as co-musical director with her husband Chuck, and Teri Quappe playing the role of the Witch. Sheree Ebanks once again dons her producer hat, a position for which she is well suited, due to previous experience with many other of the society’s productions.

The list of the behind-the-scenes crew is too long to mention here but suffice it to say that many hands were involved in bringing ‘Into the Woods’ to life. Special mention should be made of artist Tansy Maki’s work, which has completely transformed the Prospect Playhouse stage into a fairytale world, and the talents of costumers Violetta Kanarek, Charity Putnam and Teri Quappe. The live orchestra is a great touch, particularly the way in which it has been incorporated into the show.

The cast features a mix of well-known local actors and some new faces who really shine. It is hard to believe that this is Jardae Barnes’ first time treading the boards. The young actor plays the part of Little Red Riding Hood with such confidence and comedic timing, one would think she had been performing on the stage for years.

Jose Zambrano as Rapunzel’s Prince is another revelation. He is both a strong actor and singer with a great sense of comedy.

Teri Quappe has enjoyed working with the different personalities on set, which has helped keep the mood light over months of rehearsing.

“We have a fantastic group of teens in the show right now,” she said. “They have brought a new [energy] to backstage life.

“As we are putting on make-up, we are jamming out to music from all eras and generally just having a great time. So, as a cast we have really gelled. It is always the best part of the process, to create the show family.”

A lot of the light relief in the musical is courtesy of the two princes – the Cinderella Prince, played by Dominic Wheaton, and Zambrano – as they duet about the ‘Agony’ of being in love with their respective ladies.

“When we got to doing the choreography for ‘Agony’ 1 & 2, things got very interesting, especially for our new person Jose,” said Teri Quappe. “[As] I have worked with Dominic before, he is very used to my out-of-left-field ideas and just rolls with them.

“Jose was very surprised when at one point in time I was asking Dom to do a jump over him into a roll whilst singing. That rehearsal ended in a lot of laughter.”

Neil Hamaty is a familiar face on the Playhouse stage, and plays the dual pivotal roles of the Narrator and the Mysterious Man.

“I think one of the surprises for others, but not for me, was Neil singing his duet ‘No More’ as the Mysterious Man with Nicolas [Picard] as the Baker,” said Teri Quappe. “The raw emotion that both actors have been giving to that song since the first rehearsal has been making many of the other actors cry almost every time.”

There are definitely laughter and tears in ‘Into the Woods’; not just in the show, but no doubt in the lead-up to the show dates. Clearly a lot of heart and soul has gone into this production and one can only be amazed at the quality of the performances, coupled with the professional stage design. As word spreads, there is no reason to suspect that the remaining dates will not sell out quickly.

Show dates are 19, 20, 26-28 Sept. and 3-5 Oct. at 7:30pm, and 22 Sept. at 4pm. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. Rated PG due to some content. Tickets available online at www.cds.ky.

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