“Into the Woods” – I’ve encountered it twice before, once at HC and once on DVD here. Both times I wanted to like it – I like retold fairy tales and thinking about the nature of story. But I was disappointed with the story the first time (I don’t really even remember what happened, just wishing it were better) and the second time I didn’t get drawn in enough and went off to do something else (I forget what, maybe just sleep).
BUT, I have finally found a version that I like! This year’s Panto was based on and called “Into the Woods,” but it wasn’t the version you may have seen in a local theater or on Broadway. As I told my brother, when he said he’d go look up a plot synopsis online:
Heh. Do look it up. And then imagine a version where the witch has five 8-year-old minions in head-hunter garb, audience members compete in an obstacle course to pick flowers for Red’s granny while some of the show’s sponsors are announced, there is a Skype video call from inside the wolf’s stomach, the dwarves are ridiculously cute little kids with drawn-on mustaches, Jack’s face is pasted over Mario’s as he climbs a beanstalk and collects gold on-screen, the baker and his wife argue via pop-song medley in the style of “Elephant Love Song,” vital items to break the curse are acquired by winning a rock-paper-scissors tournament, Jack adopts a chicken named Mr Bock-a-Gock after his cow dies, Cinderella’s dad is as interested in handsome princes as his stepdaughters are, and it’s all narrated by a teacher who is making up the story for her constantly-commenting class who demand a new and different tale. Oh, and the witch and Jack’s mother are played by men with a couple of balloons up their blouses! Ah, pantomime.
I must give a shout-out here to the awesome actors who happen to be friends and coworkers. Lisa, who I worked with in third grade my first year here, played the baker’s wife (she never did have a name, come to think if it), and it was fun watching her be silly onstage; Jen, who I lived with that same first year, was well suited to the crazy stepmother role; and both of them sang their hearts out, A-mazing. Karen was a perfect fit for her role as a teacher, as she has been every year since I came, though this was the first time she’s been a teacher onstage and not just in her second grade classroom 😉 Jeremy’s been around for a couple years now tho not at my school, and after starring in last year’s Robin Hood he had a less flamboyant role this time as the “omniscient character,” the “mysterious man in the woods” who kept the characters on track, sauntering around in a trench coat and giving enigmatic clues as only he could. Warren and Ben were new last fall, so I’ve just gotten to know them in the last few months, and they were really well-suited to their roles as well: Warren as the worried, protective, and honest baker, who he described as an “angrier version” of himself, belting out the tunes as well and being a main character you wanted to see win; and Ben stealing just about every scene he was in with his plum role as Jack, the somewhat dim lad who is forced to sell his bovine best friend (which he insists on thinking of as a boy despite the fact that she gives milk). Today “Jack” was totally over the top in the best possible way. I can’t say I will ever see these folks in quite the same light after this weekend (well, except Jeremy, who had his local debut last year). Being one who cannot act myself, I am amazed at the ability to put oneself out there like that. (For a post with a different tone, I could ponder why it is we value – or are dazzled by – some skills so much more than others.)
I even bought one of the show-quote T-shirts today, though like last year’s play it was hard to find one that I felt I could wear! But there weren’t any plain ones with just the show logo, so I had to pick if I wanted one at all. See if you can guess which one I bought:
“Ka-Tang!” (referring to causing pain in a man’s groin – if any of my students wear it I kinda want to ask them to change, though I wouldn’t actually do so)
“Yes! Mr. Bock-a-Gock is evil!”
“Maybe it’s time to do something wrong for a change.”
“I need your shoe to have a baby!”
(Yeah, tough. I went with the last one. Not quite apprapo, but funny in itself and also funny as it points out the ridiculousness of fairy tale quests!)
(And for another post with a different tone, I’d share how both times I watched the play there was a point part-way through the second act when I wanted to suggest the Baker and his wife consider adoption. There are plenty of children out there who need … Oh but yeah like I said, that would be a different post.)