- July 28, 2018
Most know the stories of characters such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood.
But if you know these characters, have you ever thought about the consequences of their wishes and actions?
“Into the Woods,” a musical with songs by Stephen Sondheim and based on the book by James Lapine, premiered on Broadway in November 1987. In 2014, Disney released its film adaptation.
Now, a new-to-the-area theater company — Orlando-based Little Radical Theatrics — is bringing the production to life with some special twists to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
There even are some familiar West Orange-area faces involved, and the cast has been rehearsing at Quest Church in Gotha.
As with anything in a pandemic, there have been some challenges, but Little Radical Theatrics keeps pushing forward in the face of adversity. Their hard work has paid off, though, and the company is preparing to perform “Into the Woods” Feb. 18 to 21.
Little Radical Theatrics was founded by Fatima Viegas in 2009 in Yonkers, New York. The company performed more than 27 productions there and won numerous awards.
Last year, Viegas and her husband decided to move to Orlando, and they brought Little Radical Theatrics with them.
“It’s been quite a strange but exciting journey,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited. This is a wonderful cast, a beautiful show, and I think a great way to get us started here.”
Viegas always has loved the arts and grew up attending Broadway shows. Her daughter began participating in the arts in Westchester, New York, and the family realized there weren’t many theater companies or community theaters that gave opportunities to young adults. That’s when Little Radical Theatrics was born.
Upon moving to Orlando, Viegas immediately began reaching out to influential people in the community, including Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Terry Olson, the director Orange County arts and cultural affairs.
“All of them were so encouraging, saying, ‘This is wonderful; we want to help you,’” she said. “It really gave me the motivation to keep this going.”
“Into the Woods” was Viegas’ choice for the company’s first Orlando show because it doesn’t require a large number of roles — important in the COVID-19 era. There are 17, and Viegas said more than 200 people who auditioned either virtually or in person.
The show is essentially a take on different fairy tales and what happens after “happily ever after.”
“You see the beginning and how they get to their happily ever after, and the second act is what happens after that to all of those characters, and what happens when they have to face an existential threat,” she said. “It’s about the consequences of these fairy tales and basically a complete deconstruction of what happens. It’s a beautiful, beautiful story.”
Little Radical Theatrics has scheduled six performances across the one weekend it will be running the show. It’s a full-length musical and will be performed at the Marshall Ellis Performing Arts Center in Orlando. The theater typically seats 140, but only 50 seats per show will be sold to adhere to social-distancing standards.
The show’s musical director, Charles Stevens, also serves as Quest Church’s director of music, and the church allowed the cast to use the facility for rehearsals.
“It’s a wonderful rehearsal place because it’s very large and there’s been plenty of room to space out,” Viegas said. “The whole show has actually been staged to keep people at a distance.”
Oakland resident Joni Newman has wanted to play Cinderella in “Into the Woods” ever since she was in high school. That dream came true when she was cast for the part in Little Radical’s production.
“As a new company, there’s a lot of creativity as we try to figure out what we’re doing,” Newman said. “I love the innovation that’s coming out of this. When I dreamed about being in ‘Into the Woods,’ this was not the production I thought I was going to be a part of, because we’re masked and distanced. But because of those conventions that we have to maintain in terms of distancing, there are also a lot of really cool innovations that are coming in the staging that I think are really exciting. … It’s a new challenge. It’s innovative.”
Newman added that “Into the Woods” is a story she believes people need right now because the premise of it focuses on what happens when things don’t go as expected — a concept many can relate to through this pandemic.
“What happens if people get lost along the way before you thought they should?” she said. “How do you cope with loss and disappointment and still find beauty? That’s very much at the heart of this show. I think this show has always been beautiful, but it hits me differently now.”
Ashley Fisher, a Winter Garden resident and SunRidge Middle School drama teacher, plays Cinderella’s stepmother. Fisher said she took some time off from doing shows to focus on her teaching, but she is thrilled to slowly get back into performing herself.
“Everyone in the cast is just tremendously talented,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be an awesome show and a different take on ‘Into the Woods’ than you typically see, because we’re doing a lot of stylistic things for COVID that are a little bit different. This show is really, really appropriate for what we’re going through, so I feel like it kind of resonates with what’s going on.”
Little Radical Theatrics is planning to put on at least two more shows this year, and Viegas hopes the community will enjoy “Into the Woods” and continue to follow and support the company.
Fisher said the show is fun for the whole family.
“The kids will love it because it’s fairy tales, the adults will love it because it definitely takes a twist at the end — it’s not your traditional fairy tale at the end,” Fisher said. “It’s just something that everyone can come and enjoy and experience.”