Venture ‘Into the Woods’ at Thunder Bay Theatre

Courtesy Photo The cast of Thunder Bay Theatre’s “Into the Woods” poses at a recent rehearsal. Pictured in front, from left to right, are Jordan Hand and Lucas Moquin. In the middle row, from left to right, are Charity Means, Karis Mitchell, Samantha Atkinson, Tafadzwa Deiner, Caprice Green, Desi Rodriguez and Emily Ahrens. In back, from left to right, are Jared Garner, Wesley Hodges, Annika Andersson, Raymond Cronley and Sarah Matlow. Missing from the photo are Ryan Heath, Carson Heath, Abby Middlebrook, Thomas Jore, Dani Losinski and Olivia Losinski.

ALPENA — You won’t need a hiking stick or bug spray for this trek into the woods. But you will need to resurrect your fantastical childhood imagination for a journey through a fairy-tale land full of magical creatures and wondrous adventures.

Thunder Bay Theatre presents “Into the Woods” opening at 7:30 tonight and running Wednesday through Sunday now through July 7. Wednesday through Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. for all summer shows.

“‘Into the Woods’ is possibly Stephen Sondheim’s most popular play, along with ‘Sweeney Todd,’ and it is the penultimate fractured fairy-tale story,” said Director Jeffrey Mindock.

This musical features familiar characters in a darker setting, exposing new elements about themselves on a deeper level than one would encounter in a children’s storybook. Sondheim adapted the screenplay based on the book by James Lapine.

“The first act shows us all of the characters that we remember from our favorite fairy tales — Little Red Ridinghood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, the Baker, the Baker’s Wife, the Witch, we see Cinderella’s evil stepsisters, Little Red Ridinghood’s Wolf and Grandmother — all of these characters coming together to tell their stories and kind of pull back the children’s story and see them from a little bit of a darker side,” Mindock said.

Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk” is also a main character.

“And then the second act really dives into some deep themes about childhood and parenting and fear and anxiety and what it means to be a family, and traditional families versus non-traditional families, in ways that we don’t expect,” Mindock added.

The fairy tale follows a baker and his wife who do not have children of their own, and they yearn for a family, but their encounter with a witch has placed a curse on them. They journey through a forest full of peculiar characters and discoveries to be made about the world and oneself.

“It’s such a fascinating and time-tested classic,” Mindock said. “We’re really excited to produce this play, because it’s one of my favorites, if not my ultimate favorite, because … it presents something that we’re all very familiar with, and we expect to know where the story is going, and then flips it on its head.”

The musical debuted in 1986, and was adapted into a Disney film in 2014, directed by Rob Marshall and starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski and Johnny Depp.

Thunder Bay Theatre’s cast of mainly professional actors, and some young local actors, includes: Raymond Cronley as Jack, Emily Ahrens as Little Red, Jordan Hand as the Baker, Annika Anderssen as the Baker’s Wife, Sarah Matlow as the Witch, Charity Means as Cinderella, Wesley Hodges as Cindy’s Prince, Tafadzwa Diener as Cindy’s Stepmother/Cindy’s Mother, Caprice Green as Florinda, Karis Mitchell as Lucinda, Thomas Jore as Cindy’s Father, Desi Rodriguez as Rapunzel, Jared Garner as Rap’s Prince/the Wolf, Ryan Heath as the Steward, Lucas Moquin as the Mysterious Man/Narrator, Abby Middlebrook as Jack’s Mother, Samantha Atkinson as Milky White/Granny, Carson Heath as Little Boy, Dani Losinski as Snow White, and Olivia Losinski as Sleeping Beauty.

Directed by Mindock, “Into The Woods” features musical direction by David C. Delano, scenic design by Bridgid Burge, costume design by Erin Wiley, lighting design by Chris Riley, technical direction and stage management by Tabitha Camp, and choreography by Adrian Alexander.

“It’s got such beautiful themes, and the music is effervescent, and it becomes part of you,” Mindock said. “I promise that anyone who comes to see ‘Into the Woods’ is going to be singing it until the end of the summer.”

“Stephen Sondheim is the contemporary Rodgers and Hammerstein,” he noted.

This is the first time in the five years Mindock has been here that TBT has done a Sondheim production, because you have to find the right people who are able to sing, act and play their own music onstage, and TBT is fortunate to have that this season.

“The music is so intricate, and the music is so complex that it really requires not only the talented people to sing it, but also the talented musicians to play it, and we never really wanted to do Sondheim with canned music,” he said, adding that it is very rare to have actors playing their own instruments in a musical like “Into the Woods.”

Delano has done this play three times, and suggested the musicians be the actors, so Mindock, who has never done this play before, jumped on board.

“This is an incredibly unique production, not just for Alpena, but for the musical theatre landscape, what we’re trying to do here,” Mindock said, adding, “David is a huge asset to this organization.”

Adult ticket prices have been increased to $20 for the summer season. Teen tickets for ages 13 to 17 are still $12, and tickets for children 12 and younger are still $8.

“The ticket prices are going up because the cost of producing live professional theatre is going up,” Mindock said. “Currently, the theatre is only operating on a 14% contributed revenue stream, compared to 86% from our operating support, which is our ticket sales, our late-night cabarets, things like that. Most nonprofit organizations hope to sit around a 40 to 50% contributed revenue stream.”

He said if that gap decreases in the future, ticket prices might be lowered, but at this time they have to align with the budget.

“I would love to make all of our tickets $10, but if I want to continue to pay my actors, and I want to continue to grow, … we just simply need to increase our revenue streams.”

He added that these talented actors from all over the country do not make much money here.

“All of those amazing young professionals are all making $100 a week, and that’s it,” Mindock said.

Discounts are available for certain audiences, he noted.

“We have a special $5 student discount if they come and get their tickets five minutes before the performance,” Mindock explained.

He added that no matter what type of school you attend or what your age, if you are a student, the discount applies to you.

“If anyone comes down with a student I.D. and they come up to the box office five minutes before the show starts, if there’s an empty seat, they can have it for five dollars.”

For ticket reservations, call 989-354-2267. Active and retired military get a $2 off discount per adult ticket. Alpena DPI and Lafarge employees are eligible for buy one, get one free adult tickets. Season ticket holders receive significant discounts.

A season ticket for the summer is $42, which includes all three summer shows: “Into The Woods” now through July 7, “Mamma Mia! In Concert” July 12 to 14, and “Carousel” July 24 through Aug. 11. Group rates are also offered. Call for details, or visit TBT’s website at thunderbaytheatre.com/tickets.

Reach Darby Hinkley at 989-358-5691 or dhinkley@thealpenanews.com.