UMass Dartmouth Theatre Company goes Into the Woods

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by Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer

This past weekend, the UMass Dartmouth Theatre Company, typically called TCo, took audiences to a world filled with familiar characters, but with an unfamiliar twist.

Into the Woods is an adaptation of a collection of differnt fairytales written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine which originally debuted in 1986 in San Diego.

The company performed four shows across the long Veteran’s Day weekend each night at 7 p.m., save for the Sunday show that started at 2 p.m.

TCo’s production highlighted the incredible music in the show. Into The Woods is an extremely complex musical, but TCo expertly performed each harmony in magnificent fashion.

The entire cast had memorable performances, but the true standouts were Jack and the baker’s wife, each displaying a mastery of song and shining during their respective solos.

The UMass Dartmouth Theatre Company is made up of members of every discipline, and this show is almost entirely comprised of non-music majors.

These performers are studying engineering, medical laboratory science, art, history, English, business, and more.

This production was especially exciting for the company as they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this fall, and I had the opportunity to talk to two lead actors from the production, TCo’s Jack Tiernan and Lyndon Davis.

Tiernan is a UMass Dartmouth graduate student who majored in business management and is now focusing on an MBA. He’s been with the company since his sophomore year of undergraduate studies, yet has been involved in theatre since middle school. He played the most prominent male lead, the baker, and spoke about interacting with classic characters on stage.

Tiernan said, “[It’s] kind of cool to get to go in and experience and interact with everyone. Cinderella is someone I talk to a lot, I talk to Jack and the Beanstalk, and it’s kind of cool to get to know that these were the characters that originated this, and then you get to pull them in and act with them.”

Lyndon Davis is a sophomore bioengineering major at UMass Dartmouth who played the part of Rapunzel’s prince. He is currently the Vice President of the Theatre Company, and has been with the group since freshman year, having been involved in theater since his sophomore year of high school.

Both spoke about the work that went into the production, with Davis citing “twelve hours a week of rehearsal time and nine hours a week of heading into the scene shop and building the set.”

The company typically spends between ten to twelve weeks on a show, but this time around the company had just two short months to prepare Into the Woods for the stage.

“The fact that we were able to put together a show of this caliber is a testament to how hard we’ve worked,” Tiernan added.

The musical has had several theatrical runs on Broadway and beyond, and in 2014 the musical received a big screen adaptation featuring Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt.

The story weaves together a host of fairy tale characters, all made famous by the Brothers Grimm, into a story that takes them through the woods as they seek out their individual wishes.

Familiar faces such as Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack, the little boy who climbed the beanstalk, join new characters, the baker and his wife, as they struggle to undo a curse set upon them by an evil witch.

The musical is light-hearted and stuffed to the brim with comedy and merriment, but it is not without the signature twist ending for which the Brothers Grimm were notorious.

The first act is largely a blended retelling of the original stories, while closer to the end of the first act and the entirety of the second is a new take on the old favorites.

One might expect a musical with these characters to be meant for children, but Into The Woods is a story enjoyable for most ages, balancing the wonder and excitement of the fairy tales with mature themes like death and infidelity.

The tale uses some elements of the original stories, but it synthesizes a fresh story that feels at home in this familiar world.

Photo Courtesy: Sebastian Moronta Blanco
 

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