Monday, August 6, 2012

Into the Woods

Howdy y'all! Today's post is all about the next show I'll be directing and will hopefully answer some questions for those planning to audition later this week. If you're not local, or if you don't give a hoot about musical theatre, today's post probably won't be of any interest to you. However, if you'd like to learn about the super-cool Sondheim musical, Into the Woods, Jr,  or if you're at all interested in knowing what's required at a TCT audition, then stick around. Lots of info coming at ya today...

Into the Woods is a musical written by the brilliant Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. While the entire musical is beautifully written from start to finish, the second act explores darker story lines which are not completely suited for an audience full of elementary students. Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre will be performing Into the Woods, Jr. which is almost the entire first act of the original. All of the characters find what they think will bring them happiness and it's all wrapped up into a nice and tidy 'Happily ever after" package when the curtain closes at the end. So, who are the characters? I'm so glad you asked.

Into the Woods actually incorporates several different fairy tale characters and reveals what happens when they meet each other 'in the woods'. This is where I'd usually just post a link to the synopsis on MTI's website HERE, but I thought I'd also copy and paste it HERE---->

We discover three dwellings in a large forest. In one, we see Cinderella cleaning; in the second, we see Jack trying to milk his pathetic-looking cow, Milky-White; and in the third, we see the Baker and the Baker's Wife preparing tomorrow’s bread.

The Narrator leads the company through "The Prologue" as we learn about a series of wishes that are more important than anything – even life itself – to these characters. Cinderella wants to go to the King’s Festival; Jack wishes his cow could give milk; and the Baker (who believes his parents were killed in a baking accident) wishes he and his Wife could have a child. As these characters express their wishes, we meet Cinderella's Stepmother and Stepsisters who laugh at the idea of her going to a ball; Jack's mother who wishes for a lot of gold and a less foolish son; and Little Red Ridinghood, who comes to buy bread, sticky buns and pies from the Baker and his Wife before starting her journey into the woods to see her sick Grandmother.

We learn Jack's cow (whom Jack foolishly persists in referring to as "he") is no longer giving milk. Jack's Mother says he must sell the cow so they can survive. He is crushed because he thinks the cow is his best friend, but sets off to the market to sell it. Leaving Cinderella in tears, her family rides off to the ball without her.

The Baker and his Wife learn the ugly Witch next door, has placed a curse on them to prevent their having a child. She explains the Baker's father had stolen various vegetables from her garden many years ago to satisfy his wife's insatiable desire for greens. He also stole the Witch’s magic beans. To punish him for the theft, she demanded and had been given the Baker's sister, a sibling the Baker never knew existed. She claims she still has the Baker's sister hidden away and that he can break the spell that makes him childless only by bringing her a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.

The Baker puts on his father's old jacket as he prepares to journey into the woods. He finds six beans in the pockets and wonders if they are the Witch’s magic beans. He forbids his Wife to join him on this dangerous quest as he tries to memorize the list of things the Witch says he must deliver. As "The Prologue" ends, Cinderella decides to visit her mother’s grave.

At this point, the show takes on a rapid pace.

Cinderella tells her mother her wish and is given a fancy dress and slippers to wear to the ball. While walking through the woods to market, Jack encounters a Mysterious Man who tells Jack his cow is only worth a sack of beans. Little Red Ridinghood meets a Wolf who targets her and her grandmother as his next meal. The Baker appears and is concerned harm will come to Little Red Ridinghood. The Witch warns him not to worry about the child’s welfare; his task is simply to steal her cape. We hear the sound of a woman singing in the distance; it is the voice of the Baker's lost sister, Rapunzel.
As the Baker struggles to remember the four objects on his list, his Wife appears, with another offer to help him. They argue about her presence as they encounter Jack and his cow, a beast like the one the Witch has demanded. The Baker's Wife persuades Jack to sell the cow for five of their beans (which leaves them with one remaining bean). After Jack sings a sad farewell to the cow ("I Guess This Is Goodbye") the Baker is upset they used deceit to acquire the animal. The Baker’s Wife insists they did Jack a favor. ("Maybe They're Magic"). She says you have to go after what you want and not hesitate. The Baker sends his wife home with the cow and continues on his way, as Rapunzel sings again.

The Witch visits Rapunzel at the tower where she is kept prisoner. A handsome prince sees the Witch climb Rapunzel’s hair and decides to try it himself the following day.

The Baker makes an unsuccessful try at stealing Little Red Ridinghood's cape – thievery does not come naturally to him. Little Red Ridinghood enters her Grandmother’s house to find theWolf, in bed, pretending to be the old woman (whom he has eaten). After the Wolf eats Little Red Ridinghood, he takes a nap. The Baker sees a corner of the red cloak hanging out of the Wolf's mouth and hoping to get the whole thing cuts his stomach open, releasing Little Red Ridinghood and her Grandmother. After the ordeal, Little Red Ridinghood realizes that "I Know Things Now." Grateful to the Baker for saving her life, Little Red Ridinghood gives him her cloak.

Jack's Mother is furious with him for selling their cow for five seemingly worthless beans and she throws them away. The Baker’s Wife, leading Milky-White through the forest, encounters Cinderella, who is running from the Prince (the brother, coincidentally, of the prince who is smitten with Rapunzel) and his Steward. When Cinderella reveals she isn’t sure she wants the Prince, the Baker’s Wife thinks she is being very foolish ("Very Nice Prince"). The Baker’s Wife tries to take one of Cinderella’s gold shoes, but is forced to chase after the runaway cow instead.

The next morning the characters realize one midnight has gong and they have not realized their wishes. Jack discovers a beanstalk has grown up overnight.

As the Baker sleeps beneath a tree, Jack appears with an oversized money sack. He sings about "Giants In The Sky" and relates his adventure. He describes the sensation of being high in the sky and meeting a lady giant. The appearance of her husband, an even bigger giant who intended to harm him, sent him scrambling back to earth with one of the giant's sacks of gold. Jack's Mother, delighted by his acquisition, has let him keep five gold pieces which he wants to use to buy back Milky-White. He finds the Baker and demands his cow. The Baker cannot sell the cow because the Witch wants it. Jack, thinking the Baker is holding out for more money, goes off in search of additional funds, leaving the gold with the Baker. The Baker’s Wife appears, confessing she has lost the cow.
Rapunzel's Prince and Cinderella's Prince exchange tales of woe ("Agony") each insisting his romantic problem is more serious than his brother's.

The Baker's Wife, who is searching for the hair as yellow as corn, encounters Jack's Mother, who is looking for Jack. The Mysterious Man returns the cow to the Baker. The Witch warns the Mysterious Man to stay out of her business. The Baker’s Wife, recognizing Rapunzel's hair as the perfect shade to satisfy the Witch's hair demand, grabs one of the girl's substantial tresses, rips it out, and runs into Cinderella, who is on her way home from another night at the Festival. The Baker's Wife tries, without success, to take Cinderella's shoe. The Baker and his Wife run into each other and he finally agrees it will take both of them to accomplish their goal ("It Takes Two").

Jack appears with the hen that lays golden eggs. The Baker's Wife realizes the Baker has considered selling the cow for money. The cow drops dead and all seems lost for the Baker and his Wife. Two midnights are gone.

The Baker goes in search of another cow. The Baker's Wife goes off to try again to grab a golden slipper. The Witch warns Rapunzel to obey her ("Stay With Me") and to remain shielded from the world. Rapunzel says she is not longer a child and wants to see the world. Infuriated, the Witch cuts off most of Rapunzel's hair and exiles her. The Narrator reveals while pursuing Rapunzel, Rapunzel's Prince has fallen into a patch of thorns and blinded himself.

Leaving her third visit to the royal ball wit only one slipper, Cinderella reflects on her indecision about leaving her miserable home for the unknown aspects of life with the Prince ("On The Steps Of The Palace"). She decides not to decide. She has left a shoe for the Prince to find and it will be his decision.

The Baker's Wife gives Cinderella her own shoes in exchange for the remaining gold slipper. She then has a struggle with the Prince's Steward who also wants the second gold slipper. The Mysterious Man becomes involved in the struggle. The Prince decides they only need on shoe. There is a horrible thud. Jack's Mother screams that a dead giant has fallen from the sky. No one seems to care. The third midnight is near.

The Baker and his Wife report to the Witch with their four objects, but she rejects the new cow, which they have covered with flour to look like the dead Milky-White. The Witch demands they bring the dead Milky-White to her and she’ll bring it back to life.

Jack appears with a golden harp. The Witch restores Milky-White to life and commands the Baker to feed the cow the other objects. A clock chime begins to strike. The Witch insists the cow be milked to fill a silver goblet. Jack tries, but no milk flows. When the Baker's Wife says she pulled the hair as yellow as corn from a maiden in the tower, the Witch explains she, the Witch, cannot have touched any of the objects needed to break the spell. The Mysterious Man says to feed the cow an ear of corn. The Witch reveals the Mysterious Man is the Baker’s father. The cow eats the corn; the milk flows into the goblet and the Witch drinks it. She is transformed into a beautiful woman and the Baker’s father dies as the third midnight strikes.

The Narrator explains the Witch had been cursed with ugliness after her beans were stolen, but is now beautiful once again. Milky-White is reunited with Jack. The Prince searches for Cinderella with the golden slipper. Lucinda and Florinda try to fit into the slipper by cutting off parts of their feet, but their tricks are discovered and the Prince finally finds Cinderella.

The Narrator states Rapunzel, has been reunited with her blind prince and Rapunzel's tears restored his vision. The Witch attempts reconciliation with her adopted daughter, but Rapunzel refuses. When the Witch tries to enchant Rapunzel and her prince, she realizes that in exchange for her own youth and beauty, she has lost her magical power over others.

The Baker's Wife, who appears, very pregnant, greets Cinderella. The Narrator observes that everything, which seemed wrong, is now right. The kingdoms are filled with joy and those who deserve happiness are certain to live long and satisfying lives. Only tenderness and laughter are foreseen forever after. In the finale we are reminded there will be times when each of us must journey into the woods but that we must mind the future and the past.

The show ends as Cinderella says, "I wish…"

The MUSIC is really what I'd love to share with all of you because, well, quite's brilliant. I know I've already used that adjective in this post, but it just is. The story and lyrics and melodies work so beautifully together that even if you only hear it once, it will totally stay with you.  Know what I mean? The same link I posted above also has excerpts of some of the musical numbers so you can take a listen if you so desire. Don't wanna scroll back up? Just click HERE.

How many roles are available?

I'm so glad you asked. While I'm used to directing shows with a cast of 80+, Into the Woods, Jr. has a cast of 20. That's it. Just 20. There is no 'chorus', there are no 'townspeople', there are no singing and dancing mice, but there is a Cinderella. Here's a list of roles available and a brief description of each character:

BAKER The Baker changes the most as a result of his journey through the woods. At first he is reluctant to seek the help of his wife. It is through the tribulations of gathering the Witch's items that the Baker realizes, in order to achieve his wish, it will take the help of his wife. The Baker has one of the most difficult roles. He must be strong willed, yet the audience must like him; while he's denying the help of his wife, he must also portray a sense of needing and even wanting her help. The audience should never doubt the Baker is a good-hearted person, trying to do what is right.
Ab3 - Eb5
BAKER'S WIFE Into the Woods JR. is truly an ensemble show. However, it is the Baker's Wife who drives the show forward and ties the characters together. The Baker's Wife is strong, determined, and patient. The audience should identify with her and root for a successful fulfillment of her wish. The role requires excellent singing and acting, plus a good sense of comic timing.
Bb3 - D5
CINDERELLA Cinderella is at once beautiful, in a yet-to-be-discovered sort of way, and surprisingly clumsy and awkward. She persistently pursues her wish to go to the King's Festival, yet finds that "the Festival" ultimately does not meet her expectations. Directors have an opportunity in casting Cinderella to go for the unusual. She should be able to sing well and be funny, without being a clown or mugging.
A3 - D5
CINDERELLA'S MOTHER This role is a one scene wonder. The voice should be pleasant. Cinderella's Mother is a collection of remembered mannerisms and sayings.
Bb3 - D5
CINDERELLA'S STEPMOTHER This family is a bit off-beat at best. Cinderella's Stepmother mocks her, represents the interests of her birth daughters over Cinderella's basic needs, and is selfish, mean, and nasty.
G3 - D5
FLORINDA and LUCINDA This family is a bit off-beat at best. Florinda and Lucinda are spoiled brats who will do anything to win the heart of the Prince -- even if it means sacrificing flesh from their bodies!
E4 - G4
GRANNY Good speaking voice, fiesty and fierce, may be doubled with CINDERELLA'S MOTHER
JACK Jack's own mother expresses her fear that Jack may not be the brightest boy. The fact that Jack's best friend is the family cow, Milky White, further brings into question his intelligence. However, Jack may enter the woods as a simple boy, but he leaves much more grown-up. You'll want to cast an actor capable of this transition. In addition to having many lines, Jack is responsible for singing two of the best-loved songs, "I Guess This is Goodbye" and "Giants in the Sky." Therefore, he should be an excellent singer and a good actor. Further, it helps to have a young man whose voice has not yet changed, although the score allows for a changed voice. This is a role that could conceivably be played by a young woman; however, you will want to make sure she plays it as a boy and doesn't change the intended gender of the character.
A3 - D5
JACK'S MOTHER This woman is overworked, a bit frazzled, and overwhelmed with the tasks of raising a young boy, running a farm, and making ends meet. Jack's Mother is described physically as "not quite pretty" and should be comfortable playing frumpy. This is mainly an acting role and therefore requires an actress with an easily projected, authoritative voice.
C4 - C5
LITTLE RED RIDINGHOOD Pushy, bratty, over-fed, and spoiled best describe this character at the opening of the show. Her journey teaches her some very important lessons regarding strangers and trust. Little Red must be able to be loud vocally (think Annie gone very bad) and an actress able to be all the above, and still draw the audience's sympathy.
Bb3 - C5
MILKY WHITE Good part for young child, moves well
MYSTERIOUS MAN This role is all that the name implies. The role may be doubled by the Narrator, as on Broadway, or may be played by a different actor.
NARRATOR This is the character who describes the action, but eventually gets involved...Generally, this role is doubled by the Mysterious Man.
G3 - B4
RAPUNZEL Rapunzel must stand up to her mother and eventually leave her for the world. The role requires an excellent high soprano voice.
C4 - A5
RAPUNZEL'S/CINDERELLA'S PRINCE Pompous, conceited, and self-absorbed are the best ways to describe these brothers. They should be able to carry themselves with confidence that defies the Richter scale. They also have a bit of sibling rivalry! Both should be good, solid singers.
Bb3 - Db5
STEWARD This servant to Cinderella's Prince is a nice featured role. A few lines, both sung and spoken, are a great place for an actor ready to gain some experience in an ensemble show.
C4 - D5
WITCH The Witch begins the show as ugly, old, extremely aggressive, sarcastic, and powerful. Ultimately, she sacrifices her power for beauty. The Witch should be mysterious and mischievous, and yet we learn that she is really only doing what she thought was best for her child. The Witch is perhaps the ultimate "character" role and should be played by an actress able to physically and vocally interpret the role.
Bb3 - C5
WOLF The Wolf can be played any number of ways. However, he should be properly slimy and a bit creepy. There is also no reason why the Wolf cannot be played by a young woman. This role may be doubled by one of the Princes.
C4 - C5

When are auditions and whatdo I/my child need if I/they would like to audition?

Auditions are August 9th & 10th from 5-8 pm at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Tuscaloosa. A monologue lasting no longer than a minute and 16-24 bars of a song are required to audition. There is also an audition form (PDF available HERE) that can be filled out in advance and brought to auditions. **Please note that 3 copies are needed** Forms will also be available at auditions. If you will be out of town and unable to attend auditions in person, you may skype your audition on either night. All you need to do is contact me to set up an appointment.

The original Broadway production is available on DVD, and you can also purchase cd recordings of the original, revival, AND London casts. I have all three because I'm a geek like that. I highly recommend that you become familiar with the music if you are interested in a specific role. Callbacks will consist of reading and SINGING from the show.

I think that pretty much covers everything, but if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask! And good gravy, can someone please tell me why my post is formatted like this? I can't for the life of me figure out how to change it....

ah well
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