On Friday, May 3, David Button, Artistic Director for Clear Space Theatre, steps back onto the Clear Space stage for Into the Woods. The show, which first opened on Broadway in 1987, was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won three, including those for Best Book (James Lapine) and Best Score (Stephen Sondheim).
Asked what it was about this show which lured him onto the stage (for the first time since 2016), Button replied, “I became familiar with Into the Woods when I was in high school, and immediately fell in love with both the artistry of the interweaving stories and its musicality. This show demonstrates that musical theatre — no matter how frivolous at times — can have a heart and substantial meaning. How could I resist being in such a show?!”
Those interweaving stories feature many characters familiar to audiences: Cinderella, Jack (of beanstalk fame), and Little Red Riding Hood are among them. Each has a familiar wish he or she is seeking to fulfill, be it to attend a ball, get milk from a cow, or provide bread to a grandmother.
But our fairy-tale friends are not the only wishful folk going Into the Woods: On their own quest are a Baker (Button) and his wife (Erin Bobby), who seek the ingredients for a spell to break the Witch’s (Lorraine Steinhoff) curse which has left them childless.
As Button is directing as well as appearing in the show, there are challenges. But they are ones he is well-prepared to meet: “I’ve actually directed many of the scenes of Into the Woods multiple times over the years — for example, the Spotlight on Young Performers ensemble presented the ‘junior’ version of the show in 2016. I’ve also seen many productions of it, and immersed myself in the Bernadette Peters/Joanna Gleason film version for years. I know this show inside and out.” He adds, “It also helps — enormously — that this cast is one of the strongest ensembles which will ever grace the Clear Space stage. And, I’ve got a great team that serves as a separate set of eyes when needed.”
It’s no spoiler to say that those going Into the Woods have their wishes fulfilled. “But,” says Button, “it doesn’t end there. Lapine and Sondheim take us on a journey where not all the characters are as black and white as we’ve found them in the past. We all know ‘happily ever after’ — but what did it take to get there? And what happens after you get everything you want? We all have darkness. We all are good people. It’s the circumstances we are put into and the choices we make that define us.”
Sponsored by Jeanine O’Donnell, State Farm, Into the Woods runs weekends from Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 19. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m., and Sunday performances are at 3 p.m. There also is one Thursday performance, on May 9, at 11 a.m. Tickets for all shows are $17-32, and may purchased on-line at www.clearspacetheatre.org, or by calling the box office at (302) 227-2270.