Kelrik Productions is headed back “Into the Woods” next week with a magical production.
The San Luis Obispo theater company will present the storybook musical April 17 through 19 at Cuesta College’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a fun show,” said director/choreographer Erik Austin, artistic director and co-founder of Kelrik Productions. He’s helming the production with co-director Sandy Schwarer, musical director John Cribb and technical director Ryan Manus.
“Into the Woods,” which features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, premiered on Broadway in 1987. The Tony Award-winning musical, which Kelrik last produced in 2010, offers an engaging twist on familiar fairytales such as “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Rapunzel.”
“Obviously, there’s a life that happens after ‘happily ever after,’” cast member Christian Clarno said.
The Baker (Clarno) and his wife (Lizz Premer) want to start a family. But they’re unable to have children due to a curse placed on the Baker’s family by the same Witch (Allison King) who kidnapped the Baker’s infant sister, Rapunzel (Tara Brinkman).
In order to break the curse, the Witch tells them, they must find four ingredients: “the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn and the slipper as pure as gold.”
In their search, they encounter other characters on their own quests. Little Red Ridinghood (Lauryn Jusdon) is on her way to visit her grandmother (Sandy Schwarer).
Cinderella (Kristina Horacek), whose stepmother (Chloe Davis) and stepsisters (Ali Peters and Theresa Riforgiate) treat her like a servant, wants to attend the King’s festival. Jack (Antonio Ardonino), meanwhile, has been ordered by his mother (Tamarah Ashton) to sell his cherished cow, Milky White.
The rest of the cast includes Jennifer Blomfield as Cinderella’s mother, Mike Brooks as the Wolf, Alexandria Carter as Sleeping Beauty, Mya Paredes as Snow White and Jahmaul Bakare and Steven Michael Stone as the princes.
The production features backdrop design by Grosh & Kenmark Inc., scenic painting by Sharon Doran, costume design by Costume Capers, sound design by Ron Eminhizer and lighting design by Richard Jackson.
Audiences may be most familiar with the big-screen version of “Into the Woods,” which was released on Christmas Day 2014. The PG-rated blockbuster starring Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine was nominated for three Academy Awards.
But Clarno cautioned that there are significant differences between the stage and screen versions.
“In order to make it more Disney friendly, they took some of the darker stuff out and toned down what they didn’t,” he said.
While the first act of “Into the Woods” remains fairly kid-friendly, Clarno added, the second act ventures into PG-13 territory.
“The production we’re doing is very true to what Sondheim wants,” Schwarer said. “There is that innocence, but there’s a real darkness as well.”
This production of “Into the Woods” has the added benefit of being live, she added.
“There’s just something special about live theater that you don’t get from watching television or seeing a movie,” Schwarer said.
Clarno agreed. “You’re literally breathing the same air … as the actors,” he said. It’s a very visceral one-on-one experience.”
Kelrik Productions is planning just two local productions this year: “Into the Woods” and “Peter Pan,” playing July 10, 12, 17 and 19 at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo.
However, the company is presenting a full slate of productions at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, including “Pinkalicious the Musical” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
Austin said he decided to put more of his focus on Southern California when his most recent efforts to find a permanent home for Kelrik Productions fell through in January. The company has been without a home base since June 2013, when it was forced to leave Unity of San Luis Obispo.
“There’s nowhere to rent in San Luis, and the bigger theaters are so expensive,” Austin explained.
But he’s not quite ready to pull up his Central Coast roots.
“I can’t leave San Luis entirely,” he said. “We’re still trying to make it work.”
“Into the Woods”
7 p.m. April 17 and 18, 2 p.m. April 19
Cultural and Performing Arts Center, Cuesta College
$20 to $40