Tri-State Theater

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Friday, May 08, 2015

"Into the Woods" Interview #4

   Continuing our interviews with the cast of the beloved musical Into the Woods, let’s hear from a talented performer who wears more than one hat in the show.

    Ryan Hardiman covers two roles: The Wolf (who cozies up to Little Red Riding Hood) and Cinderella’s Prince, who may not be what you’d expect.

   Here’s Ryan:

Q: Tell us the story behind Into the Woods.

Ryan: Into the Woods pulls together characters from several fairy tales, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel, and joins them with an original story featuring a baker and his wife, who embark into the woods on a quest to find ingredients to a potion that will break a witch’s spell. Act 1 follows the characters as they chase their wishes, and in Act 2 we discover what can happen when we get what we wish for.

Q: Tell us about the characters you play.

Ryan: I play dual roles: The Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince. These are traditionally played by the same actor, not only because the vocal parts fall in the same range, but also because the two roles mirror each other. They are each insatiable and represent danger in their own way. While a lot of the other characters undergo major character arcs, learning life lessons, the prince learns nothing and remains a firm bastion of jackassery. Who could resist that? Emily Blunt, who played the Baker’s Wife in the film version, said in an interview that the part she really wanted to play was Cinderella’s Prince. I totally understand that. It’s too much fun.

Q: Why did you want to be in this musical?

Ryan: This is one of my favorite shows. Into the Woods is one of Sondheim’s masterpieces. (How could you choose just one?) And I feel like it’s definitely his most accessible show, appealing to a wide audience of all ages. My kids love it. They were off-book before I was. Sondheim is revered by many, and for good reason, but I equally appreciate James Lapine’s script. This is not one of those shows where you have to wade through the story to get to your next favorite song. It feels seamless to me. There’s a lot of wit and truth to discover here.

Q: What's your background in theatre?

Ryan: I’ve been doing community theatre (both musicals and plays) since 1998, when I got into it as an adult. I was never a formal theatre student, and I’ve never had any aspirations of doing it professionally. I have just learned to really embrace the experience and I am grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given. I’ve learned a lot from directors, other actors, reading plays, and also from seeing other people’s shows. I’m a firm believer that you can’t do theatre in a vacuum. Unless you take in everything you possibly can, you have no idea where you truly fit into the big picture. I feel that I learn something from everything I see.

Q: What's your favorite song in the show?

Ryan: I take this show in as a whole, really. It’s one of those shows where I anticipate each number, the introduction of each character.  I really love all of it. I think that if you’ve only ever seen the movie, you’ll be surprised at how funny the stage show really is. And the story seems much more fleshed out, as well. Of the songs I perform in the show, “Hello, Little Girl” and “Agony” have to stand out for me, but there are so many great numbers and scenes. I also love “Giants in the Sky,”  “Stay With Me,” “Your Fault,” “No More,”  “No One is Alone,”…I might as well just lay out the entire songlist. There are simply no duds at all in this show.

Q: Is the music challenging?

Ryan: Anything by Stephen Sondheim is going to be challenging to pull off. His compositions are intricate and beautiful. It’s not easy to sing. It tests your range and your timing. You really have to focus and keep the rhythm flowing through your head, or you risk a nasty derailment. But when it’s performed well, full of clarity, tone, character and precision, there’s nothing like it.

Q: Tell us about the cast - there's a lot of talent on display there.

Ryan: One of my best theatrical experiences was performing these roles in the Appalachian Regional Theatre production, directed by Danny Ray in Huntington several years ago. They say you can never go back home again, and that’s true. I love my former cast and crew and think of them often during this show, but I feel so lucky to have shared the woods with two amazing groups of people now. This is a completely different dynamic, and that makes it an exciting and fresh experience, revisiting the show with a different organization and a different group of actors. I’ve found myself discovering new aspects to the show and to my character(s). This is an extremely strong ensemble of actors / singers and I love interacting with them and watching them work. I can’t wait for our audience to share in that enjoyment.

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

Ryan: Into the Woods manages to be simultaneously entertaining and relevant to our lives. I feel like it’s easy for an audience to relate to, and care about these characters. They are reflections of all of us at our best and worst. Mix in a fantastic musical score and a compelling, yet funny story and you have a recipe for a great night at the theatre. If what I’ve seen in rehearsal us any indication of what is in store for the audience, I’d say it’s a very safe bet that you’ll have a fantastic time.

  Thanks, Ryan!

   Into the Woods is presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild on May 9, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and May 10 at 3 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre at Civic Center Drive in Charleston, W.Va. Tickets are $25 for reserved seating. Tickets available at charlestonlightoperaguild.org or call 304-343-2287.

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