Laura Murphy has long been a fan of Stephen Sondheim’s work.
“I was about eight years old when my sister and I used to watch a VHS of the original Broadway production of Into the Woods every Saturday morning,” Murphy tells Theatre People.
“Sondheim is amazing at exploring the complexities of his characters and the stream of consciousness of human thought. As a performer, his songs are amongst the most challenging but satisfying to perform.”
Similarly, Katie McKee counts herself as a “huge” fan of Sondheim, singling out Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods.
“Showcasing an array of complex, strong characters who deliver his poetic prose, Into the Woods is storytelling at its finest,” McKee says. “I love being challenged by Sondheim’s works and constantly discovering new layers. The text offers an amazing opportunity to explore, create and develop rich and detailed characters.”
Beginning Thursday, for a limited run of five shows, Murphy and McKee will take the stage in a new production of Into the Woods at Chatswood’s Concourse Concert Hall. It’s the inaugural production from Bloom Creative Productions, a new independent theatre company led by husband and wife team, Jordan and Laura May Vassallo. Alongside Murphy and McKee are many familiar faces, including Wayne Scott Kermond, Nat Jobe, Elisa Colla and Matthew Predny.
“It’s hard to believe that Into the Woods is the first production for Bloom Creative Productions because of the incredible team that they’ve assembled,” Murphy says. “The cast is filled with some of the best in the business, and the creative and design team are all highly accomplished in their areas. And the best part is that we all share enthusiasm for this show … There is so much heart and passion that is going into this production.”
Asked why she believes Into the Woods has remained popular with musical theatre fans for over 30 years, McKee cites a number of reasons.
“The intricacies of [playwright] James Lapine’s web of fairytales plays a big role,” she says. “Fairytales are timeless and Into the Woods takes these plots, weaves them all together and then flips them on their heads. As an audience member, you are witness to their journeys, lessons, consequences, losses and victories.
“I truly believe that you could see this show a hundred times over and still find something new.”
Murphy talks about how Into the Woods fleshes out the much-loved fairytale characters.
“It takes these once two-dimensional characters and examines their humanity, reminding us that you can’t judge a book by its cover,” she says. “Every one of us has desires and damage and reasons why we make the choices we make, and we all have to deal with the consequences of our actions.”
Murphy is excited to have the opportunity to sink her teeth into the role of The Witch, a role that was originated on Broadway by Bernadette Peters and played on film in recent years by Meryl Streep.
“The ‘evil’ characters in fairytales are usually the most two-dimensional – bad people are bad because they want to be bad. But in Into the Woods, and particularly with The Witch, there are reasons behind all of their actions, and these reasons are far more intricate than they originally seem,” Murphy explains.
“The challenge of The Witch is she has a lot of inner torment and damage from her past and vulnerability that she is trying to suppress and hide. So, I have to try to show all of her complexities through what I do on stage, as opposed to the actual words on the page.”
McKee is playing The Baker’s Wife. She discusses the challenges that come with the role.
“Her relationship with The Baker – and their struggles to realise their wish – is the central storyline of the piece,” McKee says. “Between them, there is a tricky balance of ambition, fear, hopefulness and love that needs to be achieved. Their story is a Lapine/Sondheim creation, so the audience [may] not be familiar with their tale, however, we need to ensure that the audience is immediately onboard with their journey.”
As to what’s in store for audiences, McKee says they can expect to be “taken on a magical journey with many twists and turns”.
“Bloom’s version of Into the Woods is going to sound and look spectacular,” she says. “The really special thing about Into the Woods is that it is a true ensemble piece – the cast is amazing, and each actor is so committed to bringing this remarkable show to life.”
Murphy shares that excitement.
“We have a 15-piece orchestra live on stage. With such an incredible score, it is going to be a thrill for the audience to not only hear but see the exceptional musicians and our fantastic conductor, Peter Hayward, working their magic.”
But beyond those few details, the actors remain tight-lipped.
“Our director, Jordan, has some ingenious ideas on how to make magic moments come to life,” says Murphy. “But I’ll be giving too much away if I reveal what those moments are, so you’ll have to come and see the show to find out.”
INTO THE WOODS – THE MUSICAL IN CONCERT: SEASON DETAILS
Dates and times:
Thursday 21st March, 2019 – 7:30pm
Friday 22nd March, 2019 – 12pm
Friday 22nd March, 2019 – 7:30pm
Saturday 23rd March, 2019 – 2pm
Saturday 23rd March, 2019 – 7:30pm
Venue: The Concourse, Chatswood (409 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood)
Tickets on sale now through
Box Office (02) 8075 8111 OR TICKETEK 1300 795 012
Tickets can also be purchased online here