SCENE@CCSU: 'Into the Woods' opens April 26

Published on Sunday, 16 April 2017 22:08
Written by Mike Backes

Guest Director

“Into The Woods,” a classic of the American musical theater, will be performed at Central Connecticut State University’s Black Box Theatre April 26-29 at 7:30 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. The production is funded by the CCSU Student Government Association.

Mike Backes, a director, actor and singer who has performed in national tours of “Rock of Ages,” “Grease” and “Footloose,” has been hired to stage the musical.

In my humble opinion, it doesn’t get much better than Stephen Sondheim. Whom do we think Johnathan Larson (Rent), Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen/La La Land) learned from? The man is not only a legend, but a musical genius. As an actor, you feel accomplished after mastering one of his songs, and as an audience member, he takes you on a powerful journey.

Back in college, it was always about taking risks and creating shows people knew and making them our own. The CCSU Theatre Department is letting my team, this cast, and everyone involved do just that. We are risking what is usually “the norm” and turning it on its head to tell a beautiful story. There are already so many underlining themes throughout the show that it is hard to ignore a major one: loss, and how we deal with what that loss feels like and move forward in life.

So what I’ve done is created a framework to tell this story of fairy tales. Who is the narrator? Why is the narrator fascinated by this story? Well, wouldn’t you be if a book appears out of nowhere after your wife is taken by a disease you can’t control (The Giant)? The stakes immediately become high and interesting for the audience as opposed to someone just giving you a narration with no point of view.

To me, the “Woods” symbolizes leaving what you know, trying to make your life better at all costs, and risking everything to get what you want. True, it’s also saying “be careful what you wish for,” but I think it’s deeper than that. It suggests to be careful what you do with your wish when you get it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible design team, the costumes, the set and technical aspects we have assembled. The production team has worked so hard to bring this show to a whole new level.

How book author James Lapine and Sondheim came up with the brilliant idea to use fairytales I’ll never know ... but is there anything more relatable? The way I see it, all of the characters - a wolf, a witch, a prince, and a baker - represent personality traits in ourselves. They live in all of us. It’s difficult to look in the mirror sometimes, but it’s also extremely eye opening.

I’m hoping, of course, you will walk out of the theatre humming the tunes, but more importantly, I’m hoping you’ll relate in some way. I hope you feel something and are truly moved, just as I was the first time I was introduced to this piece so many midnights ago.

Tickets are available at or by calling 860-832-1989.

Posted in New Britain Herald, , General News, New Britain on Sunday, 16 April 2017 22:08. Updated: Monday, 17 April 2017 11:55.