Murmurs hover over the room as some cast members of “Into the Woods” gather around the piano to warm up their voices, others go over their lines while putting on their costumes and others move around excitedly, munching on snacks, and laughing with each other.

The black floor is covered with bright colored tape indicating position marks.

Other sounds come from the sound effect table placed directly in front of the performing area as the sound designer shows the musical and theater directors his latest developments.

Mason’s School of Music and Department of Theater have come together to produce the musical “Into the Woods” as part of a greater commitment from the university to offer a musical theater academic program at Mason.

“Into the Woods” is showing at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall from Oct. 26 through Oct. 28.

The initiative will materialize in the fall of 2013 when a certificate program will be introduced for theater majors who want to be musical theater certified.

Both departments are working together to craft a new degree in musical theater which will be a shared degree between the two disciplines.

This degree program will need to go to state review, a process that will take at least one year.

“For those in performing, the need to have a musical on their resume is huge. It is something equity people look at, so Mason should absolutely offer that,” said Cara Pellegrino, who is a master’s candidate in music education and plays the character of the shoemaker’s wife.

“Into the Woods,” collects some of the most popular Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales and puts them together in one big journey where all characters, heroes and villains each have dreams they long for and are determined to pursue.

The play’s music and lyrics are original of Stephen Sondheim and the book is by James Lapine.

The Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales celebrate their 200th anniversary this year but this is not the only reason Mason chose “Into the Woods” as its first musical to produce.

“This is truly one of the masterpieces of the American musical theater, but it is also about taking a new journey,” said Ken Elston, chair of the Department of Theater and director of the play. ”Here we are taking a new journey, entering new territory and taking our own risk based on our own wishes, our own dreams, and that is very much part of this play,”

This experiment sets the foundation for future collaboration of the School of Music and the Department of Theater as they put into action the offering of an interdepartmental degree.

It could also ignite musical theater in the area, given that currently only Signature Theater offers musicals.

“All right everyone, we start in 10 minutes,” the director calls over the lingering noise and positions himself in front of the stage. Everyone rushes into last minute preparations.

The theme of this theater season is magic and transformation and as the actors transform into their characters, magically Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the beanstalk, the shoe maker’s wife and the witch all materialize in the stage at once. Rehearsal begins.


1 Comment

  1. TheDevine1 says:

    Having seen Into the Woods at a wide variety of venues, from the Broadway cast to local theatre groups, I was thrilled to see this show last night. I am pleased to say that I have never seen it performed the same way twice. Every group really should bring their own pulse to the show. Sondheim created a wonderful, feisty show with excellent one-liners and a lot of heart; however, I was disappointed in the lack of energy the cast brought to the show last night.

    The vocals, for the most part, were quite amazing. The top of the cast did a wonderful job. Cinderella and the Witch in particular were simply phenomenal. The Baker’s wife seemed to understand the emotion and wit she brought to the show and did a wonderful job. The Baker himself was absolutely astounding. For me, he was always the character who tied the show together and he gave an excellent performance. I feel the rest of the cast might have stood out a little more (and sounded better) if their mic’s had been working properly or even been simply turned on when needed. I realize that the Mason group doesn’t do a lot of musicals, but this is what tech week is meant to fix.

    The biggest criticism I have to offer about the songs is the pace. Even the creepy intro music with the slide show at the beginning interferes with Sondheim’s intended, bouncy pace. I understand that Sondheim wrote a very fast paced musical. I would have understood slowing down songs like the Witch’s rap at the Baker’s house, but to slow down the slow songs? The song, No More, that the Baker sings with the Mysterious Man is my favorite song in the show. It’s a song that can touch your soul. But to slow it down to the pace they performed it, I just wanted to scream. There’s no reason to drag out every word for six counts. You lose what they’re saying when you haven’t heard it before and you want to light a fire under their feet when you know the song.

    Overall, the show seemed incredibly static. Everyone hit their mark and simply stood there. I’ve never seen this performed with so little movement from the main characters. The strange, dancing nymphs in this production served their purpose in aiding the flow of the show and the Milky White nymph was really quite adorable, but overall they simply seemed like an excuse to have more dancers participate in the show. I felt like the whole energy of the show was extremely diminished. I found myself closing my eyes to simply listen to the music instead of watching the actual performance.

    Considering I own the CD and came to see the show, I was very disheartened by the whole experience. Next time I will check the show listing more carefully to see who is performing and I will have to think twice before attending another Mason musical.