Mari Nelson as the witch in Village Theatre’s “Into the Woods” troubles the other characters of the fractured fairy tales. The musical opens Oct. 27 in Everett. (Mark Kitaoka photo)

Mari Nelson as the witch in Village Theatre’s “Into the Woods” troubles the other characters of the fractured fairy tales. The musical opens Oct. 27 in Everett. (Mark Kitaoka photo)

Village Theatre’s ‘Into the Woods’ is a wish come true

The musical is filled with fairy tale characters and Village Theatre’s superb set designs.

What is your great wish?

Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack of beanstalk fame, and a baker who doesn’t know he’s related to Rapunzel with the long tresses, all have big wishes and dreams in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

Thirty years after it first opened on Broadway, Village Theatre brings the musical to life beginning Friday in Everett.

Like the tendrils on Jack’s beanstalk, the fairy tales intertwine. Each character courageously goes into the woods to seek their dreams and desires. They win, they lose and they learn about themselves and about life. Their wishes often intersect, and not always for good.

The original beginning of the Grimm Brothers’ story of Rapunzel involves a baker and his wife. They are childless because of a curse placed on them by a nearby witch, who is exacting revenge on the family after catching the baker’s father in her garden many years ago stealing vegetables, including six “magic” beans. The witch makes the couple a deal, requiring that they gather a number of items for her before she will release them from the spell.

In the meantime, Cinderella wishes to attend the king’s festival, Little Red wishes for bread to take to her grandmother, Jack wants his cow to give milk, and Jack’s mother wishes for gold and so tells her son to go sell the cow.

So off they all go into the woods.

The other “character” in this production is the stage set. Village Theatre’s designers do superb work. The wood — ladders, tree trunks and branches — “grows” on a rugged, hilly, trail-worn setting on the stage floor turntable, where actors run and climb.

The most endearing thing about the production’s woods is that the tree leaves are actually pieces of paper on which children have written their wishes to fly, see an absent parent or become a basketball star.

In Japan, people write hopes on slips of paper and hang them from trees. In England, travelers wedge coins into tree cracks to make wishes. In North America, we put up Christmas wish trees where people can donate toys for children whose families are struggling.

Directed (and choreographed) by Kathryn Van Meter with musical direction by Tim Symons, the musical’s cast includes many Village regulars.

Christine Marie Brown (Mrs. Banks in “Mary Poppins”) is outstanding as the baker’s wife, CT Doescher (“Cloaked”) is the steward, Alexandria Henderson (Lorrell in “Dreamgirls”) is the stepsister Florinda, Eric Polani Jensen (Dad in “Billy Elliot) is the narrator, Jayne Muirhead (“No Way to Treat a Lady”) plays Jack’s mother, Corinna Munter (“In the Heights”) is Cinderella’s mother and Little Red’s granny, Matthew Posner (“Billy Elliot”) is the hilarious Fabio-like prince who asks Rapunzel to let down her hair, Marissa Ryder (“A Proper Place”) is the stepsister Lucinda, the lovely Allison Standley (Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”) plays Cinderella, and Kevin Vortman (“A Proper Place”) also is funny as the wolf and Cinderella’s prince.

Making their debuts with Village are Molli Corcoran (Seattle Children’s Theatre) as Rapunzel, Trey Ellett (Broadway and TV) as the baker, Cheryse McLeod Lewis (Seattle Opera) as the stepmother, Rafael Molina (Seattle Shakespeare) as Jack, and the delightful Arika Matoba, a recent Pacific Lutheran graduate, as Little Red.

Everybody’s favorite character is the witch, of course, and this time she’s played by the talented Mari Nelson, who studied at the University of Washington and Julliard. She’s performed on Broadway and off, and with nearly all the Seattle theater companies. A shout out here, as well, to the costume designers who made the witch look both beastly and beautiful.

Ultimately, “Into the Woods” is about community, a sentiment dear to the Village family, which has announced that longtime artistic director Steve Tomkins is retiring in May. Tompkins began his career in Seattle in 1972 as a member of The Empty Space Theater. His first production with Village was as the choreographer of “West Side Story” in 1987 and he became its artistic director in 1993. By the end of this season Tomkins will have directed 64 mainstage productions for Village. Longtime Village collaborator Jerry Dixon will take over the job in June.

“Into the Woods”

Oct. 27 through Nov. 19, Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave. For showtimes (no performances Mondays or Tuesdays) and ticket information, go to www.villagetheatre.org/everett or phone 425-257-8600. Season subscriptions are available.

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