At first glance, Into the Woods may appear to be a simple fairy-tale musical, but as Tamara McCarthy explains, the Stephen Sondheim production goes deeper than its premise.
“At first appearance it could seem that it is just a sort of light comedy, a very witty take on mixing characters from a bunch of different fairy tales who all intertwine and criss-cross into one story, which it is, but at the same time it’s also a real satirical look at our society,” the theatre director said.
McCarthy, a longtime fan of the musical, is directing it for the first time for the Vancouver Island University theatre department. The VIU production hits the Malaspina Theatre stage March 1 and runs until the 10.
“In Act 1 it’s all about everyone pursuing their own individual goals and being so focussed on that they’re unaware of their surroundings and everyone gets what they want by the end of Act 1 but no one is satisfied,” McCarthy said, adding that Act 2 asks the question, “Is what we think we want what we really want?”
“As repercussion of their actions for being so self-centred, other things, [through] cause and effect, have effected other people and destruction ensues and we sort of realize that unless we work together in harmony with other people we cannot be a successful society because we just end up destroying ourselves and and everyone around us. So it’s got some big, dark messages.”
Open auditions for the production were held in mid-January, and McCarthy said more than 50 actors tried out for the musical’s 19 roles. The final cast is composed mostly of students from the VIU drama program, as well as drama and music graduates and people from the community.
“Like they say, ‘90 per cent of a director’s job is the casting,’ so I only have 10 per cent of my job left,” McCarthy said with a laugh.
“That can be the toughest thing, but if you get it right then a lot of your work is done for you already.”
First year theatre student Ami MacFarlane auditioned for and was granted the role of Little Red Riding Hood. She said her classmates have been looking forward to Into the Woods since the beginning of the year.
“I love Little Red Riding Hood. She’s super spunky and super sassy, but also really sweet and charming at the same time, so I love that. She was my No. 1,” McFarlane said.
“We have an amazing cast. I knew it was going to be good but I didn’t think when we were in the room the first night and at the first readthrough, I didn’t think it was going to be that good.”
MacFarlane will be acting opposite VIU geoscience student Galen McMenamin, who plays the big bad wolf, who is making his musical debut in the show. His first theatre experience came last year in the school’s production of the play Our Country’s Good. Now he’s hooked.
“Film and theatre have always been something I’ve been very interested in but I never went after it myself,” he said.
“Coming to VIU and having the opportunity in the last play really lit a fire. It’s addicting. This is addicting and it’s so much fun and you become a little family because you spend a lot of time together. I just love it and I just want to keep doing it.”
WHAT’S ON … Vancouver Island University’s production of Into the Woods comes to Malaspina Theatre from March 1 to 3 and 7 to 10 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Tickets available at firstname.lastname@example.org.