Arts and Entertainment

Ovation! Musical Theater tackles Sondheim's ‘Into the Woods’

Without a permanent building, going into the proverbial woods seems a specialty for the Ovation! Musical Theater group. - Courtesy photo
Without a permanent building, going into the proverbial woods seems a specialty for the Ovation! Musical Theater group.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Bainbridge-based chameleon-like musical theater group debuts its fifth anniversary production July 11.

When the curtains are drawn on “Into the Woods” July 11, it will be a somewhat crowning moment for Ovation! Musical Theater.

Not only does the production mark the burgeoning theater’s fifth production as a company, it also marks a level of achievement for the troupe. It’s one of those shows that’s been on the “to-do” list for quite some time.

“We’ve wanted to do the show for a long time, but it’s a very sophisticated show. It’s very complex and it’s very difficult,” Ovation director Ron Milton said. “We wanted to make sure we had all our ducks in a row before we attempted a show that is so well written and so extremely difficult.”

Sondheim has been noted as “the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American Musical Theatre” by the New York Times. He’s won more Tony Awards than any other composer, including the lifetime achievement nod. He’s the music man behind some of the most well-known musical theater productions of all time — for example, the lyrics to “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” were his first big hits.

His works as a composer are characterized by their swiftness and polyphony within the vocal lines. “Into the Woods,” the piece which Ovation is undertaking, looking into the lives of Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale characters through the original story of a baker and his family, ranks as one of the quickest.

The sheer speed of the show, Milton said, is what sets it apart and gives it such a great degree of difficulty.

“You think you’ve seen musicals that are fast, you think some of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are fast,” he noted. “There’s nothing that I’ve ever worked on that comes with the speed of this particular show ... there’s one number in the show called “It’s Your Fault,” it’s probably the fastest piece of music I’ve ever encountered, and our cast does an absolutely great job with it. It’s unbelievable.”

But that’s somewhat characteristic of the Ovation troupe in itself. They operate on a somewhat unbelievable format without an actual building to house the troupe. They rehearse wherever they can find space on the island, then move into the Bainbridge High School theater one week before the production is slated to take the stage.

It can be a stressful situation, but Milton says it actually makes Ovation that much better.

“One of the things about Ovation is we’re not a 300-pound gorilla, we’re more like a chimpanzee,” he said. “It’s 100 percent the art of the show, which it makes us much more flexible.”

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