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Sunday May 16th

PlayMakers preps for popular musical "Into the Woods"

The company is in its fifth week of rehearsals for its upcoming musical, “Into the Woods,” a production that will join hundreds of other nationwide mountings coinciding with the release of Disney’s film adaptation of the musical.

The show will run in rotating repertory with William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” beginning Nov. 2, more than six weeks before the Christmas Day release of the Disney film, which will star Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick.

Carol Edelson, senior vice president of Music Theatre International — which licenses “Into the Woods” for production — said she has witnessed a recent surge of interest in the musical.

“The professional theaters who have thus far signed on to do ‘Woods’ in 2014 and 2015 is at least double the number who came in during 2012 and 2013,” she said in an email. “I know at least some of this upswing has to do with the movie. As far as amateur (theater) is concerned, (interest) continues to be robust.”

Edelson said MTI executives anticipated the increased interest and expect it to continue, especially as theaters discover the profitability of a movie tie-in.

“Movies help. Movies’ advertising budgets are huge — particularly when compared to live theater budgets,” she said. “All that advertising puts the title in people’s minds, which makes a musical that has recently been made into a movie an attractive bet to theaters.”

Joseph Haj, PlayMakers producing artistic director and director of “Into the Woods,” said the release of the movie was not a main factor in motivating PlayMakers to produce the musical.

Instead, the company was inspired by the elemental motifs of the 2013 rotating repertory — which paired water-centric plays “The Tempest” and “Metamorphoses” — and chose to feature another element with the rotating repertory this year: the woods.

Haj said his only worry was making sure PlayMakers preceded the actual release of the movie and the subsequent market saturation. Now, he foresees only benefits from the film’s release.

“I think we all understand that plays are so very different from film, and I don’t think it’s going to have any sort of negative impact,” he said. “I don’t think people go, ‘Ah, yeah, I don’t need to see the play. I’ll wait for the film.’”

Jeff Meanza, PlayMakers associate artistic director, said Haj is taking a different approach to the idea that humans universally desire to tell stories. Instead, he said, Haj is focusing on how stories can be almost parasitic or viral in their need to be told.

“What he’s exploring in terms of the power of stories is that they are alive and forcing themselves on an audience,” Meanza said.

Haj said he is treating “Into the Woods” as if it were a new play — he wants a fully original take, particularly given the show’s current popularity.

“Really, the job is to try to read it with fresh eyes and try to read it and understand it separate from how it made sense to a specific group of artists that worked on it,” he said.

Meanza said he hopes and anticipates audiences will be interested in PlayMakers’ unique, un-Disneyfied version of the show alongside their interest in the film.

“Obviously, theater and cinema are vastly different mediums,” he said. “But ultimately, it’ll only benefit us that there’s a film.”


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