Stephen Sondheim is known for his technically intricate musicals and Into the Woods is no different, but that didn’t deter Mark VanBeever, director, from taking the show by the horns.
VanBeever is a graduate of Lane’s GED program and has been acting and directing in the community for several years. He has presented his vision of the show at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, which opened May 1.
The seats were nearly full when the house lights dimmed and the stage lights illuminated a silhouetted forest in hues of purples and blues. The Narrator, played by Austin Vanderplaat, began to tell a medley of fairy tales including Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and more.
Veteran and Lane student Ben Buchanan was cast as the Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. Buchanan’s elaborate costume included a furry mask, with chest and hand prosthetics, giving the Wolf an element of authenticity. Buchanan captured the character’s sleaziness through movements around the stage and manipulations of his costume pieces.
The music was canned, meaning it was pre-recorded instead of played live, but this didn’t affect the cast’s enthusiasm. With only floor mics amplifying their singing, the cast effectively filled the room with sound and maintained crisp dialogue throughout the show.
Vanderplaat recently attended Lane majoring in acting, but has taken a break from the academic world to work and act within the community, applying what he learned at Lane to real-world situations.
The character who stole every scene and only said “moo” was Marv, a white wooden cow that represented the character Milky White. Marv was listed in the playbill, citing his past experiences with North Eugene and Churchill High School productions.
“I tracked him down especially for this show. He was created for my first production of Into The Woods at North Eugene Highschool 15 years ago,” VanBeever said.
The first act wrapped up the fairy tales with commonly known happy endings. The second act then further analyzed what happens post happy ending, complete with Sondheim’s creative weaving of story lines. The audience was well pleased opening night and expressed their delight through steady applause, laughter and overall enthusiasm.
Lane also touched the lives of other actors like Cathy Becker, who played Granny in Little Red Riding Hood, and India Potter, who portrayed both Florinda and Snow White. Becker grew her passion for theater by taking voice and acting classes at Lane, and plans to take more in the future.
Gene Chin, voice instructor at Lane and the University of Oregon, played the Baker. The central character helped pull focus during Into the Woods with a quest that required appeasing a witch in order to have a child with his wife.
Other actors openly shared stories about seeing Lane shows, taking classes years ago or knowing students and staff.
The show will run May 16, 17, 18 (matinee), 22, 23 and 30, and closes Saturday, May 31, at the Actors Cabaret of Eugene on 996 Willamette.