Into The Woods

Synopsis

Into the Woodsis a bouncy and bewitching musical fairy tale by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The brilliant book and score interweave the plots from several Grimm Brothers stories to share a contemporary message about dreams, wishes and the power of community. When it debuted on Broadway in 1989, it won Tony Awards for best score and best book, helping it achieve great commercial success.

In the first act we meet the characters we've come to know, all trying to make their dreams come true. Cinderella and Rapunzel seek their Princes. Little Red Riding Hood escapes a Wolf on her quest to help Granny. Jack climbs his beanstalk in search of fortune and glory. Added to the mix are two fresh characters, The Baker and his Wife who yearn for the greatest gift of all - a child. Alas, they've been cursed by the witch who holds Rapunzel captive! To reverse the curse, the Baker and his Wife interact with the others to gather a curious list of ingredients to appease the witch: a slipper as pure as gold, a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, and hair as yellow as corn. The act ends with all the characters fulfilled, and ready to live "happily ever after."

In Act Two Sondheim and Lapine reveal the true humanity of the characters, as they come to realize that having your every wish granted brings complications. Charming princes have flaws, parenting is tough work, and, well, killing a giant can make the giant's wife very angry. Characters come to new understandings about life as their kingdom is threated with destruction. They discover their actions have consequences and in the end they rally together to build a new community across the differences that once divided them.

Director’s Foreword

Ten years ago in 2006 we were lucky enough to be asked to take part in the Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre at St David’s Hall.At that time our facilities were meagre yet our desire to show that our students were capable of great things was immense. We decided therefore to present an extract of Sondheim’s Into the Woods. We had previously presented productions such as Godspell, Bugsy Malone and Little Shop of Horrors, all of which were considerably easier but we wanted a challenge! I was delighted when I read in a review in the Western Mail that ‘pupils from Cowbridge School positively lit up the stage in what proved to be a memorable performance.’ A challenging score was no obstacle for our students and we were very proud of their achievements.I knew that one day we would attempt the whole musical and I am delighted that the day has finally arrived.

This piece of theatre is a challenge that would stretch many professional artists.Sondheim’s songs have difficult intervals and tricky harmonies. However, we are lucky to have a superb musical director who is a great admirer of Sondheim’s work and who has the ability to not only play but teach and guide the students through the challenges of this undoubtedly difficult score! Sondheim's music is often perceived as inaccessible and provokes the, "I didn't come out singing the songs". Sondheim himself is acutely aware of the friction that surrounds his work and his awareness once again reveals his concerns over sentimentality. "Over the years," he said recently, "my work has at times been considered cold. I find that people sometimes mistake sentimentality for feeling. I believe in sentiment but not sentimentality. Of course, what's sentimental is often in the ear of the beholder. Quite often the stuff I write is not simple and I can't help thinking that one of the continuing problems plaguing theatre is the obvious split between popular and theatrical music. It has widened over the last twenty years because of the notion of popular music, which has to do with the singer, not the song. In trying to cultivate a young audience, how can I tell them musical theatre is just a different way of looking at things? They haven't been exposed to it. It's not what they require from music. It's not easy."

After ten years all the cast of 2006 have long since left school and today we have a new cast of talented young artists who all have risen to challenge of this piece of theatre. The great thing about Into the woods is that it gives a lot of students the chance to shine. It is very much an ensemble piece that gives the whole cast a chance to show their talents. As well as students who can tackle the intricacies of the score vocally we also have an orchestra that is made up of students. We are hugely proud of their enthusiasm and commitment to playing this complex score.As I write this foreword we are all busily rehearsing, practising and preparing for the opening night. Being a part of the cast of any show is a great thrill but it also requires dedication and commitment to see a task through to the end, no matter how difficult that may seem at times. They are a great cast and we are very proud of them all.

Mrs A Campbell

Past Productions