Musical offers lessons, laughter

November 26, 2016 GMT

The director of Rome Little Theatre’s production of “Into the Woods” is hoping the audience leaves the show and takes one particular message to heart.

“The comedy, the sincerity, the tenderness of this show,” Chris Davidson said. “The message that no one is alone, that to me, is the most important message that I want everyone to leave with. You may feel alone, but you never are.”

The Stephen Sondheim musical is a modern classic, taking fairy tale characters and twisting the stories so they meld together. The action happens in the woods, with Cinderella admitting she’s not so sure about her prince, Red Riding Hood facing her fears and the Witch showing her human side. Throw a baker and his wife who want a child into the mix and the comic and heartfelt moments abound.

The show opens Friday at 8 p.m., with another show Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m. The following weekend, the show runs at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students and $12 for children and are available at the box office, 530 Broad St. They also can be purchased by calling the theater at 706-295-7171 or by going to the RLT website at romelittletheatre.org.

This is not the first time Davidson has entered those woods.

“My first show with the RLT was in the early 1990s and it was this show,” she said. “I played Lucinda, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. It changed the course of my life.”

Davidson admits she couldn’t sing or dance, but she loved being in the show and she fell in love with “Into the Woods.”

“I went on to learn to direct and when the opportunity came up to do this show, it felt like kismet,” she said. “When I did the show in my 20s, it meant one thing to me. Now, 20 years later I read through it and listen to the music and it means something else — especially now as a mother. Every character in this show has a mother and their relationship is a huge part of why they are the way they are.”

Davidson and her cast and crew have been working tirelessly to get the show ready. The show is large and complicated, with complex lyrics and many tempo and key changes.

“It’s challenging, but thrilling,” said Maegan Williams, who portrays the Witch. “Playing the Witch is just a dream and an honor. There is a lot more to her than just a witch.”

Lindsey Chambers, who plays Cinderella, is pleased with her character and loves her complexity as well.

“She is very confused, but I think she comes to the realization of what she wants by the end,” she said. “I know every little girl comes in thinking about what Cinderella means to her. I hope I do her justice.”

Emily Earp, who plays stepsister Lucinda, has enjoyed delving into her character.

“On the surface, the stepsisters are rude and blunt and self-centered,” she said. “But there is a lot of jealousy there, I think.”

Kelly Hill plays the other sister Florinda.

“We get to be over the top,” Hill said. “So they are fun and we have great chemistry.”

While some of the material is a little darker than the typical fairy tale, Davidson said she thinks it is appropriate for children.

“We treat the show carefully and have tried to emphasize the magic of the show,” she said. “There are some risqué elements from the original show that we have tried to work around and make this a family show.”

James Swendsen, who portrays the Baker, has had his role hit close to home.

“The Baker and his wife want a child and my wife and I just had a child recently,” he said. “So when I’m on stage, holding the doll that is supposed to be the Baker’s child, I could feel some of the things my character was going through.”

The Baker is more of a straight character in the play, yet pivotal, he added.

“The Baker and his wife are the only two characters who don’t really come from a fairy tale,” he said. “They are normal people who have a wish for a child. I think it is nice playing a straight character like that.”