Go “Into The Woods” with Northumberland Players

In entertainment

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Northumberland Players is proud to present the Stephen Sondheim musical Into The Woods, opening Feb. 24 at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre.

And the group is jubilant that the production marks the revival of their annual tradition of an early spring musical after an extended COVID-19 hiatus.

And speaking of revivals, director Jim Finan said, the musical first came out in 1987 and is now in its second revival.

If you’re looking to be transported by an extraordinary theatrical experience, Finan added, you’ll find it in this mashup of fairy tales.

“Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the princes and a wolf,” he listed.

“It’s great fun to see them interact onstage.”

It’s done in a masterful way that is great for kids, and also has another level that will engage their parents.

“It’s a family show, but it’s not juvenile. The kids will recognize the characters, but there’s a whole different layer for adults,” Finan said.

Make that layers, plural.

“It’s a story that sometimes talks about relationships. I describe it sometimes as misguided parenting, love won and love lost, and what happens when you lose someone in the woods – but kept as light as possible.

“Sometimes I describe it as a show about community. We succeed as a community when we work together. When we try to do things individually – ‘I want’ – we don’t succeed.”

And there’s another important quality that has come to be associated with this musical over the years, Finan noted – it is healing.

It debuted during a time when the AIDS crisis was new and horrifying, and the gay community was being vilified.

It had a revival just after 9/11, when New York was going through a wave of Islamophobia and mosque burnings.

“Then last year, when Broadway came back from COVID – again, it was about healing, about pulling a community back together,” Finan said.

He had the chance to see it on Broadway, and reports an effusive and emotional audience response.

“The show has a sense of healing that’s quite remarkable. Whether it’s New York or Northumberland County, the same rule applies. We have all come through the damage caused by COVID – emotional damage, spiritual damage. This show says we can come back. We can make it through the woods.”

Northumberland Players has shown remarkable agility in adapting to the changing requirements of theatre in an age of COVID, from outdoor pop-up productions to a dinner-theatre show where actual real-life couples were cast as onstage couples.

Since they began work on Into The Woods in September, the precautions have continued. Rehearsals have been fully masked affairs, actually requiring Finan to work with the actors without being able to see the expressions on their faces completely.

And in a sort of emergency-planning exercise, Finan has worked with his producers and stage manager Catherine Holland to draw up a master list of contingency plans for what happens in case someone has COVID – a list that includes quite a long roster of key individuals.

Asked about his cast, he says he’s got the A-Team, a great bunch who know how to “find the funny.”

“The wonderful Lucy Caldwell is the Baker’s Wife,” he said, explaining that there are two main non-fairy-tale characters in the show – the Baker and the Baker’s Wife.

Supporting Caldwell is “the very talented Hudson Scott – he’s the fastest pick-up I have ever seen. He picks up a script faster than anybody.”

Beyond that, there’s Jamie Raymond as Cinderella, Alexia Boyagian as Little Red Riding Hood, Ethan Edwards as Jack (the guy with the beanstalk) and Mary Schultz as Jack’s Mother.

It’s beautifully put together as an ensemble play, he said.

“There’s not a weak part in the play. That’s why I love it – it’s nice to give everybody face time.”

Producers are Beth Hunt and Jack Boyagian.

And then there’s the score. A Sondheim musical is on a level of its own, requiring precision and discipline. And Finan believes this aspect of the show is well served by Dan Kapp in the orchestra pit and music director Marie Anderson.

Finan took on set-designer duties as well to create the forest setting, and he’s looking forward to seeing how his ideas work out.

The musical takes place at the Capitol Theatre Feb. 24 through March 5. Tickets are available at the Capitol website and also at https://northumberlandplayers.ca/whats-on/2022-2023-season/into-the-woods/ (where you can also see film clips with sneak-preview features).

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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