Desert Stages’ “Into the Woods” offers nuanced fairy tale

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Alyssa Granger is Little Red Riding Hood in Desert Stages Theatre’s summer production of “Into the Woods.” Photo by Wade Moran.

Have a favorite fairy-tale character? Maybe Little Red Riding Hood, Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” Snow White, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty? All these and more star in “Into the Woods,” a Next Stage production of Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, running Friday, July 8 through Sunday, Aug. 7.

“Into the Woods” may not be the fairy tale one expects. This new story is a darker tale of wishes: A baker and his wife wish to have a child, Cinderella wishes to attend the king’s festival and Jack wishes his cow would give milk. The baker and his wife set off on a journey into the woods to break the witch’s curse (the reason for their childlessness), and everyone’s wishes are granted. But at what price?

The show is directed by Lisa Barton-Figueroa. No stranger to Desert Stages, she first stepped onto its stage at age 10. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Tampa and a master’s in educational theater from New York University, she returned to the Valley and has since directed numerous productions for Desert Stages.

“’Into The Woods’ is a classic piece of theater with difficult music,” Barton-Figueroa says. With book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the Tony Award-winning show opened on Broadway in 1987 and has since been produced by several Valley theaters. (The show was also adapted into a 2014 feature film with a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick and Johnny Depp. The film earned three Academy Award nominations.)

So what’s different this time?

“One of the things that will make our version of ‘Into the Woods’ unique is our performance space,” says Barton-Figueroa. Desert Stages is a theater-in-the-round, which means that the audience sits on all four sides of the stage.

“The entire story of ‘Into the Woods’ revolves around characters in search of something, and they get lost in the woods trying to find it,” she explains. “They become turned around, twisted, and some of them even lose sight of what they are after. The theater-in-the-round lets the audience experience the woods with the characters. They are truly a part of the journey.”

A few characters have been “double cast.” For example, on Friday evenings and Saturday matinees, Alyssa Granger, who will be a sophomore at Hamilton High School in Chandler this fall, plays Little Red. On Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees, the part is played by 17-year-old Allison Steward, a senior at Arcadia High School. Double casting allows multiple actors the opportunity to work on the show.

Barton-Figueroa notes that her cast ranges in age from 14 to 20, and she says they have worked incredibly hard.

“When you think of fairy tales, you think about happy endings and Disney movies,” she adds. “These teenagers are creating characters all in search of an ‘ever after,’ and are finding that the journey to ever after is often long and very difficult.”

Desert Stages recommends this show for all ages, although there are some dark themes, including murder and revenge.

If you go: July 8-Aug. 7; 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, 4720 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. $18. 480-483-1664 or