By Mark Jordan
One of the biggest stars of Kudzu Playhouse's new production of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" is also one of its smallest.
Olive Branch 11-year-old Ty Kirk plays "the Narrator" in the Tony Award-winning musical, which is based on fairy tales famously collected by the German Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, in the early 19th century.
The show starts Friday and runs this weekend and next at the Hernando Performing Arts Center.
Ty's role one of the biggest and most important in a show that, even in Kudzu's slightly abbreviated version, runs more than two hours has traditionally been played by an adult. But in recent productions in London and New York, directors have taken the unusual step of casting a child in the part, the better to underline the show's themes.
"I thought that was a really cool choice because it really drives home those themes of parents and parent-child relationships," says director Alayna Weiss, who also plays the Witch in the show. "There're a lot of themes about the consequences of deceit and selfishness and the difference between good and bad, and that children might not always listen but they're always watching and those really speak to me as an a adult and as a parent especially."
If the producers of "Into the Woods" had any qualms about casting such a young performer, Ty, who is already something of an old pro on the local theater scene, erased them. He made his acting debut at age 5 and has earned two Allie Award nominations from the Northwest Mississippi Theater Alliance. His achievements are even all the more impressive because Ty suffers from a hearing condition that affects his ability to hear higher pitches, but doesn't affect his remarkable singing voice.
"He's just fabulous. He runs circles around some of the pros here," says Weiss. "Ty holds his own, and I'm amazed with his stamina as well. To keep that kind of focus and intensity through a long show like that, and he's on the stage for 9/10ths of the show. But he does it with grace."
Written by Sondheim with a book by James Lapine, "Into the Woods" debuted in 1986 and premiered on Broadway a year later, going on to win three Tony Awards (original score, book and performance by a lead actress in a musical) despite stiff competition from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera."
The show is an at-times dark pastiche of several Grimm fairy tales, including "Little Red Riding Hood" (Carter Rice), "Jack and the Beanstalk" (Zach Buchanan), "Rapunzel" (Clare Kelly), and "Cinderella" (CJ Hudson), with some new characters (Justin Bixler and Samantha Wilcox as the Baker and his wife). In keeping with recent psychological reinterpretations of these old tales, the musical delves into the deeper subconscious meaning and lessons in the tales.
"These are what fairy tales were before Disney got a hold of them," says Weiss. "But it really comes full circle, and the big theme of it is community.
"Community is what preserves us. There's a song called 'No One Is Alone': 'Honor the mistakes that everybody makes/And remember that no one is alone.' And they bid together as a team and defeat the giants and everybody wins. It's definitely a triumph of the human spirit."
If you go
What: "Into the Woods" presented by Kudzu Playhouse
When: weekends of June 7-16
Where: Hernando Performing Arts Center, 805 Dilworth Lane, Hernando
Show times: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Tickets: $12 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. Tickets available at the box office day of show and online at kudzuplayers.com.
Originally published by Mark Jordan Special to DeSoto Appeal .
(c) 2013 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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