When you're young you're afraid not to wander off into the woods. Once you're old, you wish for it.
The masterly and Tony-award-winning musical Into the Woods by leading composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and the great writer James Lapine returns to the GNO Alternative Stage, at the SNFCC, in the new approved version for piano and percussion. From 14 December 2023 and for nineteen performances through 7 January 2024, one of the finest musicals of all times is inviting you to wander off into a forest of desires and wishes, along with the heroes of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Walt Disney. Off into the forest!
Into the Woods is a dark tale of coming-into-age, full of fascinating melodies, constant plot twists, disarming humour and an evocative atmosphere. The Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and his Beanstalk, and Rapunzel all wander off deep into the woods and get involved in a modular story that reverses their known paths and evolves in a totally unpredictable and gripping way, exactly like life.
The musical direction and coaching has been undertaken by conductor Stathis Soulis, while the direction and Greek translation bears the stamp of Dimitris Ayiopetritis Bogdanos, one of the most charismatic and creative directors of his generation. The song lyrics have been rendered into Greek by Julia Diamantopoulou. With the participation of an excellent cast of distinguished actors and singers, accompanied on piano by Christos Sakellaridis and on percussion by Theo Vazakas and Costas Seremetis.
Stephen Sondheim and the secrets of the woods
American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is regarded as one of the most important representatives of music theatre of the second half of the 20th century. His successful career in music theatre has been rewarded with a series of honorary distinctions, including an Academy Award for the song «Sooner or Later» sung by Madonna in the film Dick Tracy (1990), eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer, including a Special Award for his overall contribution to theatre), eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 1984 Sondheim collaborated for the first time with playwright and director James Lapine, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with the musical Sunday in the Park with George. Three years later, Sondheim writes the music and lyrics for his new musical titled Into the Woods, based on Lapine's book of the same title. In the musical, the composer manages to combine four big intertwined stories, with over twenty individual roles, while masterly crafting his music practically on the basis of three main motifs: those of the wish, the beans, and the royal family. Into the Woods was first performed at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego (4 December 1986) and then on Broadway (5 November 2987). There, the work was presented non-stop until 3 September 1989, completing a run of 765 performances. In 1988, it was honoured with three Tony Awards, and in 2014 it was transferred to the big screen by Rob Marshall, while it continues to enchant audiences around the world to this date with its constant anniversary revivals.
Directing a Broadway classic... differently!
The most recognizable characters of Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and the Walt Disney culture get deeply lost into the woods of their desires, wishes, and consequences of their choices, breaking down the deeply rooted «happily ever after» stereotypes, in a «fairy tale» that sounds nothing like a lullaby. With Stephen Sondheim's unique music as a vehicle, the distinguished creator who has won Oscar, Tony, Grammy, Pulitzer and Laurence Olivier awards, and James Lapine's unconventional text, the show aims at using the stage power of musical to reintroduce a masterpiece in its genre, while raising a political question: Why when we reach what the social models suggest as the seemingly ideal, we still fail to be happy and complete? Why do we spend irrationally large amounts of energy on desires that are not even our own?
In his first collaboration with GNO Alternative Stage, Dimitris Ayiopetritis-Bogdanos directs from the inside out this famous modular anti-fairy tale, shedding darkness upon the fake flickering light of the eternally archetypical «tale-telling illusion». Along with a group of excellent performers, musicians and technicians, he sets up an abstract and handcrafted meta-musical that is nothing like the contrived bedazzlement stereotypes, overturning through its peculiar direction rhythm deeply rooted perceptions both about the show and the key missteps of modern-day life -human branches, parental paths, love clearings, professional spells. «Using grandma's closet as a dressing room, and several elements-spooks from the repositories of our childhood as stage set, the responsibility of the narration becomes collective: under the pressure of literal and inner giants, wolves and princesses, «the apple tree and its fruit» attempt to measure themselves against their fears in a condition of emotional recycling, hoping for a rebirth. In this context, through the carefully selected props, today, on the Alternative Stage a multitude of historic productions of the Greek National Opera will be revived, and will become altogether the tiles of a fascinating mosaic of «previous» and «next» lives, for a new «now». Towers from past castles of the Sleeping Beauty, the dress of Rossini's Cinderella, the jacket of a past Prince, and even real transfer cases from productions with archetypical heroes of Opera and Ballet transformed into paradoxical magic boxes, are set up anew before the viewer for a renegotiation», notes the director. «Through a labyrinthine journey to the inner shadows, Into the Woods seems like a dense, redemptive night under the sun. The spotlight sheds darkness instead of light, yet it makes everything inside you shine. Slaps are sometimes loud and other times silent. Childhood traumas become reconciled with the pain of the coming of age and when it is time for «The end» you already know that when you are a child you are afraid of getting lost in the woods. When you are an adult you wish you would.».
Into the woods of the GNO Alternative Stage
After a run of sold-out performances in February 2020 that was abruptly interrupted by the pandemic, the successful musical Into the Woods continues its enchanting journey on the GNO Alternative Stage with a production of high aesthetic value. The musical direction and coaching is by Stathis Soulis. The sets and costumes have been designed by Lina Pigadioti-Tzima - all of them pieces carefully chosen from earlier productions of the Greek National Opera that are now being revealed anew before the audience -, while Sakis Birbilis' lighting design contributes to the creation of a fairy-tale-like and dark atmosphere. The movement is by Konstantinos Kounellas.
The taxing role of the Witch is performed by popular actress and singer Nadia Kontogiorgi, one of the most talented artists of her generation. Alongside her, an ensemble of talented performers including Hara Kefala, Apostolis Psychramis, Dimitris Ayiopetritis-Bogdanos, Maria Grampsa, Eleuterio Calpaktsides, Ioannis Kontellis, Thanos Lekkas, Lito Messini, Danai Moutsopoulou, Olga Papakonstantinou, and Lydia Tzanoudaki
With the participation of musicians Theo Vazakas and Costas Seremetis on percussion and Christos Sakellaridis on piano.
Presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe): www.mtishows.eu