BWW Interviews: Part Four of Our Interview Series with the Cast of INTO THE WOODS
BroadwayWorld is thrilled to share with you the final installment of our interview series featuring the cast of Woodlawn Theatre's current production of Into the Woods.
One of Sondheim's most enchanting works, Into the Woods follows the stories of the Baker and his wife who wish to have a child, Cinderella who wishes to attend the King's Festival and Jack who wishes his cow would give milk. With the words 'once upon a time,' the story begins. We follow Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack (of beanstalk fame) encountering the consequences traditional fairytales conveniently ignore.
Into the Woods plays The Woodlawn Theatre, located at 1920 Fredericksburg Road, now through March 16. Tickets are on sale now at www.woodlawntheatre.org or by calling the box office at 210-267-8388. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays 3 pm. Tickets cost $15 - $23 with discounts for students, military and SATCO members.
Today, we bring you our interview with cast members Joseph Urick and Melissa Zarb-Cousin who play The Wolf/Cinderella's Prince and Cinderella, respectively.
BWW: What made you decide to audition?
JU: Into the Woods has been a very dear play to my heart for many years. This role was actually what got me interested in musical theatre in general, so this is kind of a bucket list gig for me!
MZC: Into the Woods is one of those "have to do" shows. I thought it couldn't hurt to try, so I auditioned.
BWW: How familiar were you with the show prior to rehearsals?
JU: Very. I've been following this show for many years.
MZC: Very familiar. I was first introduced to it my freshman year of high school. We got to watch the video. I remember giggling at the anatomically correct wolf bits. If anyone has ever seen the Bernadette Peter's version, you know what I am talking about.
BWW: Why do you think Into the Woods is as beloved as it is?
JU: Because of the universality of the stories. These are characters that we are all familiar with, and it's nice that they are not just the Disney carbon cutouts, but rather, they pay homage to the original Brother's Grimm text! I also think this show is popular because it answers two very important questions: "What if these stories were to meet?" and "What happens after 'Happily Ever After'?"
MZC: It is timeless, and it can hit close to home, so to speak. It is easy to identify with one or many of the characters. The music is incredibly moving and the book is very honest. There is no sugar coating.
BWW: What has it been like to bring this show to life?
JU: It's been really nice. The rehearsal process has been nothing but exemplary and professional. I really feel like San Antonio, for not having the amount of regional or equity houses that other cities have, still presents a high caliber style of theatre that both theatre people and non-theatre people can appreciate.
MZC: It has been a dream. I really enjoy being with my castmates, who all happen to be super talented. I've enjoyed watching everyone go about his or her own individual journey with this process. I've certainly enjoyed my own journey... it has been full of ups and downs, certainties and uncertainties, feelings of absolute joy versus overwhelming insecurities. It's all a part of the process.
BWW: Into the Woods is a huge ensemble piece. Which character do you identify with the most?
JU: Ironically, Cinderella's Prince. I feel that as a young lad, I was always out looking for the next best thing, the next adventure, and never took the time to really care for what I got once I had it. So, it's been nice to almost face those personal demons and purge them, in an odd way.
MZC: I would have never imagined this, but, after getting to know her pretty well, Cinderella. She is a product of her environment, but, despite obstacles, she pursues her dreams. She finds strength in the woods. I think she makes the most profound transformation in the show.
BWW: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
JU: "Hello, Little Girl" is by far my favorite moment in the show. It's creepy, sexy, evocative, provocative, and it's also brilliantly written. It is also one of the few songs in the show that does not have a reprise, or even alluded to later in the show. So, the singular nature of the song is what makes it special to me as an actor.
MZC: "Moments in the Woods," sung by the talented Amanda Golden. I love that song, I adore her.
BWW: What's been the best part about working on this production?
JU: I have not done a musical for the better part of a year, so being able to get back on stage to sing and dance, after having done so many straight plays and classical pieces (Shakespeare, Greek, Commedia), it is lovely to be able to come in and work on something different.
MZC: Those fleeting moments when you realize what a huge undertaking this whole process has been... that you're a part of something bigger than yourself.
BWW: There are few Broadway composers who are as prolific and respected as Stephen Sondheim. What's your favorite Sondheim show?
JU: Company. Hands down. The orchestrations, the songs, the characters, I just feel that Company is one of the best pieces he's yet written. Not to mention Bobby is another bucket-list role for me!!
MZC: Sweeney Todd. I like scary things, like, a lot.
BWW: Into the Woods was part of a big Tony Award battle that is still talked about, so naturally we need to bring it up. With that said, Phantom of the Opera or Into the Woods. Which one, in your opinion, deserved the Tony for Best Musical back in 1988?
JU: The Phantom of the Opera. But before people start throwing rotten fruit at me, hear me out. Into the Woods featured an all-star cast, with an all-star composer, and redefined what musical theatre could be. However, Phantom was the largest and most powerful show to hit Broadway in the "British Invasion" on the late 1980s, and, unlike Woods, has had a following that has allowed it to endure for over 25 years. The music of Phantom is also much different from Woods, with far more emphasis on an operatic style, compared to Sondheim's very unique wordplay. Plus, on a personal note...I saw Phantom first!
MZC: Hands down, Into the Woods.
BWW: There's been a lot of talk from theater fans and critics about what the Giantess is supposed to represent, especially since Into the Woods premiered at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic. What do you think she stands for, and if you had your own Giantess to overcome, what would she be?
JU: People like to think things mean more than what they mean. Sigmund Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." In this case, I think people want to make a character something that has nothing to do with anything. The "Giantess" is a wronged woman. Her husband is dead. She was cheated and lied to. Like many of the characters, she is there to have her wish fulfilled. But, like the other characters, there are attributes to her that make her wishes a little bit more feasible. For example, the Wolf's wish is to eat Little Red; he does so by manipulating her to stray from the path. The "Giantess'" wish to find the boy, she does so by looking for him at the expense of all the damage done to other people's homes. Could there be something more? Maybe. Should we concern ourselves with it in our show? I don't think so. Let's just tell the story and let the audience decide what things mean. That's our job.
MZC: She is anything that it takes a community banding together to overcome.
BWW: What do you think audiences will enjoy most about Into the Woods?
JU: The characters. They are going to be taken on a really fantastic journey through their own childhoods and maybe learn something new about relationships that maybe they didn't know before. It will also be nice, in a society that is so black and white at times, to see all the shades of gray, and to see how they react to said discovery.
MZC: Everyone has brought so much life into their characters. I think the audience will be able to pick up on how pumped we are about doing this show; there's no doubt it will be an enjoyable evening at the theatre.