The first musical Amron Salgado ever saw featured songs by Stephen Sondheim. If you thought West Side Story, nice try, but you’d be wrong. The answer? Into the Woods. “It’s inspired me to pursue performing as a career. The entire show truly is a masterpiece in itself, and one that captures your heart and your attention,” said Salgado, a senior at Gloucester County Institute of Technology, who stars as Jack in the Triple Threat Workshop production, playing the Levoy Theatre January 13 to 15.
When she was younger, Director Caitlin Geisser played Little Red in a production of Into the Woods. “The show meant so much to me then,” she said, “but to revisit the production as an adult means so much more, and to watch my students experience it for the first time as young adults is an extremely exciting journey.”
James Lapine and Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical brings everyone’s favorite storybook characters together. “Filled with the music we love, the stories we’ve known… or perhaps the ones we thought we knew, Into the Woods resonates with audiences of all ages because it examines the base of humanity,” Geisser says.
The show follows a host of fairytale characters pursuing their happily ever after—a baker and his wife, who wants to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. The baker discovers a witch’s curse which prevents his wife from conceiving, thus begins a journey to break the spell. The characters learn that when wishes are granted, they carry responsibilities and consequences, Geisser says.
Characters have to lie and cheat to get what they want, which turns Act II into a darker story of accepting the responsibilities of their actions in Act I, Geisser says. “I think at our base, we as humans are always making introspective discoveries about morality and how that affects the greater good of our community.“
It’s complicated, it’s brilliant and it’s Sondheim, Geisser says. “So it’s a beautiful challenge filled with discoveries. Take your standard fairytale characters and give actors the freedom to make them breathable people.”
Kurt Sparks, who plays the baker, brings passion to the undertaking. “Caitlin brings the drive to persist no matter what obstacles present themselves. This kind of attitude is infectious to the young actors and the technical team as well. A show as difficult as this one has proved to be the most welcomed and rewarding challenge to us,” he says.
The production will take place in the round, Geisser says, which means the audience will surround the playing space on all four sides and will be up on the stage with the actors on riser seating.
“I love staging in a non-conventional way because it adds an intimate and immersive experience for the actors and the audience. I couldn’t think of a better show to do this with. I am definitely in the minority of loving to work in small theater spaces.”
The Levoy is huge, she says. “So we are pulling in and pairing down to give a truly unique experience that has never been done before at the theater and I am so excited.”
Doing the show in the round has added something unique to the rehearsal process, says Talia Mazzuca, who plays Cinderella. “And Miss Caitlin has helped walk us through it every step of the way,”
Into the Woods was not the first choice, Geisser admits: “We were actually supposed to do another Sondheim musical, `Merrily We Roll Along’ that centers around the story of three best friends, how they met, and essentially grew up together. Talia, Kurt, and Amron—three best friends in real life—brought the project to me and I said, “ Heck, yes, I will produce it!”
But Geisser couldn’t get the rights because an off-Broadway production is being primed for Broadway come the fall. “I turned to the three of them and asked what they wanted to do instead. We finally landed on `Into the Woods.’ We were able to build an ensemble of extremely talented actors, and it feels like a true testament to how much our students have learned over the years to be able to tackle some of the most iconic roles ever written with this challenging and inspiring material, and a way to honor and celebrate the late Stephen Sondheim.”
Triple Threat Workshop spans from the shore region up to the Cherry Hill area. “We have students that attend Egg Harbor Township, GCIT Drama Department, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, and Schalick High School all within the same cast.”
Other cast members attend Rider University, Seton Hill, Montclair State University, University of New Hampshire and University of Long Island Post, majoring in musical theater, theater education, technical theater, and music education.
The beautiful thing about Into the Woods is that each and every production takes on the essence of your cast, Geisser says. “As children we are taught fairy tales to teach us lessons about morality and as we grow older we start to question the legitimacy of those lessons and make the choice of what gets passed on to the next generation. This musical deeply examines this phenomenon and is one of the many reasons people come back to the woods time and time again.” n
Triple Threat Workshop presents Into the Woods at Levoy Theatre, 126–130 N. High St., Millville. Showtimes are January 13 at 7 p.m., January 14 at 2 and 7 p.m., January 15 at 3 p.m. Tickets $30 adults, $25 students. levoy.net. or 856-327-6400.