The long-running musical fantasy brings a magically dark story to The Black Box Theater

In a typical fairy tale, dreams do come true. In these magical stories, the protagonist always receives exactly what he or she wants in the end. Whether it be through hard work or sheer coincidence, a happy ending is achieved and the land is peaceful once more.

The hit Broadway musical, “Into The Woods,” takes this concept and flips it on its head. The show, directed by James Lapine and composed by Stephen Sondheim during its initial Broadway run, ties together several well-known Grimms Brothers fairytales into one story.

The stories involved in this tale include “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella.” Each character wishes for their own happy ending, and at first, their adventures go well as they live through the typical fairy tale. However, as the story progresses, these characters come to the realization that the stories they live in do not quite have the ending they were hoping for.

For APU Theater, working with guest director DJ Gray has been an insightful experience. Her experience as a Broadway actress and choreographer has given cast members vital knowledge in multiple elements of musical theater.

“DJ’s amazing. She’s very creative,” said Rebecca Wilks, a senior acting major playing one of the woodland creatures. “She’s very strategic in how she moves people on and off the stage.”

For the actors in the show, it quickly became evident that DJ Gray knew how to choreograph a show. Her Broadway accolades as a choreographer include being the associate choreographer of both the Tony Award-winning “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and the Tony-nominated “Xanadu.”

For “Into The Woods,” Gray’s choreography skills were especially useful. The show has a large cast that constantly moves around the stage, so Gray made sure the choreography was clean and concise.

“She tries to make it look like it flows,” Wilks added. “We try to make it not look overly-choreographed.”

The plot of “Into The Woods” is quick, but there are plenty of layers within it. At first the story seems charming and happy, but by the time the second act rolls around, the definition of a “happy ending” completely shifts. Each character learns that their own happy ending can become twisted and dark, each having major consequences that they did not notice at first. The second act proves that some stories do not have a happy ending, creating a deeper meaning to the traditional fairy tale that was the first act.

The second act is significantly darker than the first. However, it is through this darkness that family becomes a major theme of the story. This was especially apparent for Sam Bixby, a sophomore acting major who plays the role of Rapunzel’s Prince.

“I would classify this [show] as a comedy, but it’s also really touching near the end,” Bixby said. “It definitely makes you think about your own family and what’s really important.”

Every character learns exactly what it means to care for someone, and for Sam this was reflected through his relationship with the rest of the cast.

“When I think about this show, I think about how great the cast is,” Bixby said. “I have no words, and I think that will read when we’re having fun on stage.”

This year marks 30 years since “Into The Woods” began its first Broadway run. While the show has been around for a while, there is a reason why it is still relevant today.

“Even throughout the loss, in the very end, they’ve completely found a new story, which is beautiful especially as a Christian,” said Dawn Williams, a senior acting major playing evil-stepsister Lucina. “Even through loss or conflict, there’s still light at the end of the tunnel.”

Each character learns that it will take more than wishing to get through life. Very few shows can capture both the whimsy and darkness of life, but “Into The Woods” manages it beautifully through its story, setting and characters. The show creates an unexpected tale of “happily ever after” and how quickly life can change.

“Be ready for an adventure,” said Kayla Becker, a sophomore acting and honors humanities major. “Nothing is what you expect it to be.”

“Into The Woods” is currently playing at the Warehouse Theater from Oct. 12th to Oct. 15th with matinee times on Oct. 14th and Oct. 15th.