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​Don’t fear ‘the woods’

by Jack Dura | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Theatre | February 19th, 2015

MTFM explores Sondheim’s metaphors and music in fairytale season closer

In a season themed with fairy tales, Music Theatre Fargo-Moorhead is pulling every one’s favorite characters and creatures together in an outing marked with fantasy, realism, music and metaphors.

Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” follows the musical theater master’s own couple of characters (a baker and his wife) as they meander through the woods with a wish of their own. All around them, other fairy tale characters seek their fortune too in a story set up with metaphorical musings for everyone.

“This story takes this couple through a really incredible journey,” cast member Kathy Hanson said, “and it really takes that concept of ‘When you get your wish, what happens after that?’”

Hanson, who portrays the baker’s wife, went on to say the symbolism and metaphors of Sondheim’s musical are amazing, and “Into the Woods” has little lessons for everyone (characters, included). From the baker and his wife wishing for a child, to Jack the farm boy desiring milk from his cow, everyone onstage has their hopes pegged on one thing.

“In this tale, all these characters are basing their happiness on the future,” Hanson said. “In this time of social media and all of the hype in our surroundings, it shapes our wishes and what we think we need – what we think will make us happy.”

Twelve cast members support the many characters of “Into the Woods,” with double and triple casting for some onstage.

MTFM mainstays like Hanson, Craig Ellingson and Angie Schulz are here, as well as some company newcomers such as NDSU junior Chris Loeffler (portraying Jack) and Shelby Cochran, who played Dorothy in FMCT’s “Wizard of Oz.”

Hanson said her character, while funny, is also “probably the most flawed.”

“She is the one who gets caught up in the woods more than anybody,” Hanson said. “Even though she’s a very kind person, she just makes decisions that are not good for her, but in the end, it’s what brings her awareness.”

The baker’s wife, Hanson continued, is a fine example of the story’s symbolism, though it’s found all throughout the show. The need to listen to each other, to accept loss and confront fear, pain and weaknesses are all embodied in aspects of “Into the Woods,” as well as examining “all the wonderful possibilities” in life, Hanson said.

Designing this show was another bit of fun for those involved, who utilized classic storybook forms for style.

“Someone has invited us to a warehouse … full of theatrical props and costumes and old scripts, and we show up, and someone opens a book, and all of sudden, that story comes to life,” Hanson said.

As “Into the Woods” unwinds, everyone stays onstage even when they’re not needed. Constant interaction is present throughout the entire show, from characters to birds to cast members sitting and watching the show too.

Beyond its pure entertainment, broad symbolism and wonderment of music, “Into the Woods” offers a homegrown production of the same story released in theaters last December.

Walt Disney’s “Into the Woods” stars Meryl Streep and an ensemble cast in the cinematic adaptation, and while Hanson says it’s a happy coincidence that MTFM’s production is premiering mere months after the full-length film, audience members shouldn’t compare the two.

“Any film that is made of a musical, they have to interpret it in a different way,” she said.

Hanson has not seen the film yet, so as not to shape her interpretation or feelings about MTFM’s performance. However, she encourages anyone who has to attend MTFM’s show to see all the new approaches they’ve taken to the story.

Full of lyrics, lessons and little moments for those in the seats and onstage, “Into the Woods” has entertainment and insight for everybody, especially Hanson, who also gleans from inspiration from this show.

“Live in the present and not be afraid of the ugly side of things,” she said,” because when you confront it, it’s not so scary.”


“Into the Woods”

7:30 p.m. Feb. 19-21, 26-28; 2 p.m. Feb. 22 & March 1

The Stage at Island Park, 333 Fourth St. S.


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