Beyond 'happily ever after'

'Into the Woods' ponders life after the fairy-tale ending

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— In theater, there comes a time during rehearsals that everyone in the cast needs to come together, grasp the production and start digging in for some serious work.

"With this show, that pretty much happened the very first rehearsal we had," Stuart Handloff said.

Handloff is directing the Steamboat Springs High School production of the Tony Award-winning musical "Into the Woods," by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

Handloff said it was somewhat surprising the student actors got into the play so early. "Into the Woods" is not exactly a typical musical.

"This show is not fluffy. It's about as serious of a musical that I can think of," he said.

It has the perfect blend of seriousness and humor that makes it appealing, he added.

But it also deals with a subject that most of the young actors probably have pondered.

The plot recaps some of the best-known fairy tales and then tells the story of what happens after the "happily ever after" ending, Handloff said.

"They know that happily ever after is not real," Handloff said.

The stories are told through the journey of a baker and his wife to appease a witch who cast a spell on the couple so they can't have children. They encounter Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and his beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood

"This cast has really worked well together," said Lauren Tait, who plays the witch.

Handloff has been blessed with some of the most talented actors he has had in a cast to pull off the production.

"This is, without question, as far as working together, the best cast ever head and shoulders above the rest," he said.

Though rehearsals have been energized, and the talent has been deep, it's not to say the production, with a cast and crew of more than 30, was a walk in the park. The roles demanded the actors to sing and act on a high level, which is exactly what Handloff aims to do with the plays he directs.

"I really prefer things that are just above your grasp, just so you can reach up and grab it," he said.

Senior Beth Ann Ludwig said the work has been a "blast," but it has been a challenge.

"It's been a real stretch for me as a character-builder," she said.

Many on the cast, such as Tait and Ludwig, are seasoned veterans to high school drama and are a big part of the production's expected success. But for them, "Into the Woods" also marks the last time the seniors will be in a play at the school.

"This is kind of my farewell," Tait said. "Most of my friends are in the show with me."

Senior Topher Simon, who plays the baker, has been in every high school production since he was a freshman. He said he'll miss acting with his friends, but he is one of the few students who plans to stick with the trade in college.

"You basically forget about all your problems when you are on stage," Simon said of his love of acting. "It's just relaxing to get sucked into a character."

"Into the Woods" opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a special 2 p.m. performance Saturday.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students. Reserved seating tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and are only available at the high school box office. All That Jazz and Celebrations are selling the general admission tickets.

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