It's not every day that the audience gets to see actors playing musical instruments on stage.
Tigard's Broadway Rose, known as the crown jewel of musical theater in Washington County, is taking a favorite and experimenting with movement as it takes on Tony Award winner "Into the Woods."
The show takes Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales and features familiar characters like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (with his beanstalk), and Rapunzel meeting the childless Baker and Baker's Wife. They all are guided through a world of adventure and a mission to stop a curse by the show's villain, The Witch.
Directed by Jessica Wallenfels, a Portland State University graduate with a background in choreography, her approach to the show took inspiration from the actors' movement telling the story beyond the singing, she said.
Because the auditorium where Broadway Rose typically holds its summer shows will be under construction, the musical will take place at Broadway Rose's New Stage, meaning a big musical on a small stage.
Wallenfels' husband, Eric Nordin, works as the musical director and composer. He worked at Broadway Rose in the past and wished to see the company produce "Into the Woods" one day, she said.
"It's one of his favorite shows. He got this idea in his head that the company should produce a one-piano version because it's originally a whole orchestra," Wallenfels said. "He's an amazing piano player, and he really wanted to adapt that score to fit a small space."
Despite having more than a dozen cast members, Broadway Rose's version will be "stripped-down" and simpler than other productions in the past.
"It's not that popular or fashionable to do a big production like this anymore," Wallendels said. "With the economic realities, most theater shows look to hire five or six people in a show. It is unheard of that you get to do a show with this many people. The vocal quality is super powerful and really fun."
Actors like Erin Tamblyn, who plays The Witch, will hold instruments such as a bell, a challenge that brings physical language to life, Wallenfels said.
Tamblyn is a returnee to Broadway Rose. When she auditioned, Tamblyn wanted to play The Witch again after playing the role at Lakewood Theatre in Lake Oswego. This time around is different, in a welcoming, challenging way, she said.
"When you have a different director, everything can have a different shape and physicality and a new vocal take. It's been really interesting to fight the old instincts of what I've done before, and it's been fun to challenge myself to take The Witch another way," Tamblyn said.
"You really wonder how The Witch became the way she is and the things I think about are what makes her angry, what makes her make the choices she made, and the complexity of the switch midshow when she undergoes a transformation."
Many of the songs are funny, and the dancing Wallenfels choreographed is inspired by contemporary pop culture, like the recent Oscar-nominated movie "The Favourite."
"The highlights are finding all the humor and freshness," Wallenfels said. "The actors are interacting with the piano and other percussion instruments that I think you're going to find surprising. The comedy is pronounced, wild and over the top. There is a fun collision of high stakes and the true pain of life that is sifted through this ridiculous lens."
A preview performance is set for Thursday, May 30, with opening night Friday, May 31. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through June 30, at the New Stage, 12850 S.W. Grant Ave., in Tigard.
Tickets cost $30-$48 for adults (depending on date), $20 for ages 6-18 in the upper section, $25 for ages 19-30. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For Oregon Trail cardholders, $5 tickets are available, through the Arts for All program.
For a full listing of performances or to order tickets, visit broadwayrose.org or visit the box office at the New Stage.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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