Talk Is Free Theatre's Into The Woods Makes Magic in Springwater Provincial Park
Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journeying…
This weekend, I ventured into the woods of Springwater Provincial Park to enjoy Talk Is Free Theatre’s Into The Woods - In Concert, presented as part of their Bees In The Bush Festival.
Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine combines characters from the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm as they pursue their happily ever after and all that comes with it.
This sold-out run of Into The Woods returned to TIFT by popular demand from August 18th to 21st as part of the theatre’s outdoor festival bringing live theatre back to the Barrie area as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
The production was directed by Michael Torontow, with music direction by Wayne Gwillim, choreography by Lori Watson, set design by Joe Pagnan, costumes by Laura Delchiaro, and sound design by Josh Doerksen. It also features a talented cast including Aidan deSalaiz, Griffin Hewitt, Tracy Michailidis, Richard Lam, Jamie McRoberts, Glynis Ranney, Noah Beemer, Kelsey Verzotti, Derek Kwan, and Tess Benger.
Into The Woods was my first musical back after the pandemic, and it was a fairytale!
Audience capacity was tapped at fifty guests, and tickets were free, as they are for all of the Bees In The Bush Festival. Guests would reserve their spot and seating was first come first serve. Upon entering Springwater Provincial Park, audience members were COVID screened, admitted, led through the woods to one of the lovely picnic pavilions nestled in a clearing, and seated at socially distanced picnic tables.
There’s something so magical about seeing live theatre outdoors, especially like in this production where the playing area wasn’t an actual stage. It always reminds me of the origins of this art form, before Shakespeare, before Greek tragedies, when stories were told and songs were sung as a way of connecting with each other.
It’s intimate, simple, and instantly forges a connection between performers and audience by proximity alone.
Director Michael Torontow has created a production that feels like a modern fairytale where the careful simplicity of the staging allows the performers to hand deliver the story to the audience.
The talented cast navigates the complex Sondheim score with ease and presents grounded versions of larger than life characters. One of my favourite performances was Tess Benger’s gritty Cinderella, barefoot with flowers in her hair in pursuit of her dreams. Another was Tracy Michailidis who brought a stunning humanity to the Witch.
Many performers played multiple characters within the piece. This added humour in the case of Griffin Hewitt and Richard Lam who portray the Princes, as well as the Stepsisters, and Milky White and the Wolf, and I kept waiting for them to appear as their next character. It was also an incredible opportunity for Kelsey Verzotti, who was a bold Little Red Riding Hood as well as a beautiful Rapunzel, and Glynis Ranney who was enjoyable as the Stepmother and Granny, and beyond impressive as Jack’s Mother.
The entire company connected extremely well to each other, the material, and the audience. I have always believed that theatre is truly great when that magical moment of connection happens, and this performance was a brilliant example of this phenomenon.
I mentioned that this was my first time seeing a live musical post-pandemic, so we knew I was going to be emotional. However, I did not expect how hard certain moments would hit. A stunning rendition of You Are Not Alone, performed by Benger, Verzotti, deSalaiz, and Beemer was extremely touching, especially after the year and a half we have all had.
It was an incredibly healing experience as a whole, but this specific tune was a highlight.
Into The Woods was an absolute delight, and while the show’s sold out run in Springwater Park may have wrapped this weekend, you still have a chance to catch this production!
Talk Is Free Theatre’s Into The Woods In Concert will be presented in Toronto’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres from October 28th-30th, 2021!
The production will actually use both stages in this double decker theatre, with audience members travelling from one theatre to another in between acts. Adding to the fairytale experience, audience members are encouraged to bring stuffed animals as their guests to maintain social distancing and create the effect of a full house!
I’ve already booked my ticket, and you can find yours by visiting the link below:
You don’t want to miss this magical experience!