Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012

Into The Woods With UWM

Tony Horne brings a large musical to a small stage.

By Russ Bickerstaff
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In and amidst all the trappings of theatre, its easy to forget that it’s all about storytelling. At the center of it all is the story. In a way that’s what Stephen Sondheim was tapping into when he wrote Into The Woods. A series of traditional fairy tales are woven--complete with some of their original darkness—into a moody musical. Traditional folktales that have been around forever get the musical theatre treatment . . . and this is NOT the disturbingly sanitized versions of these stories we get in Disney musicals. Sondheim had fun with it because it got to the heart of theatre—the essence of storytelling.

It is precisely this essence that Tony Horne is working with in a studio theatre presentation of Into The Woods that opens next week with UWM. The production is being staged in Kenilworth Studio 508. There are quite a few ways to bring a huge Broadway style musical into the confines of small studio theatre. Windfall Theatre has done a good job of this in the past. As have Off the Wall and a few others. Given the option of delivering a little set and costuming and such as those companies have and simply letting the story tell itself through the actors, director Tony Horne is going for what sounds like a very scaled-back approach. Off the Wall’s recent production was very confrontational with a production design made to look like the end of the world, which was really nice and everything, but Horne’s approach sounds just as interesting as it taps into the basic elements that have made those traditional fairy tales so enduring to begin with: the fact that they come from the simple act of people telling stories. Horne likens the show to stories told around a campfire. A little song—a few actors let the story tell itself through these things. Not that I would know, but I think Sondheim would appreciate the approach as well . . .

UWM’s stging of Into the Woods runs March 2nd through 4th at Kenilworth Studio 508. For ticket reservations, call 414-229-4308.

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