by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — As the gate of summer swings open, Lost Nation Theater will be presenting Stephen Sondheim’s Tony award-winning musical “Into the Woods” for three weekends beginning on June 1 and running through June 18.
There will be a preview performance on June 1 — and in the spirit of Cinderella’s ball — a “Masquerade Gala” on Friday, June 2.
Is there any of one of us, whether child or grown-up, who has not wished, or wished upon a star? Most of us know by heart or at least are familiar with the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood. And who can forget Rapunzel, locked away in a high tower with her long, long hair?
In a recent face-to-face meeting with Tim Tavcar, who directs the show and is back at Lost Nation Theater for his 20th season, he talked about “Into the Woods” and its wishing theme.
Of the first act of “Into the Woods,” he said, “It tends to be light and frothy and fun.” Everyone gets their wishes. “The first act ends with ‘happily ever after,’” he said.
“But you have to face the daunting consequences of your wishes,” he said. “You have to be a custodian of your wishes.” And in the show’s second act, the performers wrestle with the consequences of what they wish for.
Again this summer, Tavcar will be working closely with music director Lisa Jablow, who holds a doctorate in choral conducting. Her credits include such performing venues as the New York City Opera, Tanglewood and the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble. She’s also the assistant conductor for the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra.
The show’s choreographer is Taryn Noelle, whose talents were on full display in the 2016 Lost Nation production of “Hairspray.”
It was the way that Lost Nation Theater audiences responded to “Hairspray” last year that encouraged the theater to take another big chance with a large-scale musical “Into the Woods” this summer. Clearly, audiences liked “Hairspray” and they like musical theater — that was last year’s very strong audience message.
In a note from Producing Artistic Director Kathleen Keenan, she described the impressive size of the production effort with “Into the Woods” – a cast of 20 performers, a live musical ensemble of eight-plus instruments and a production, directing, set, lighting and design team that supports the show.
Tim Tavcar took the time to list the instruments in the live musical ensemble. “A violin,” he said to begin with. Then, “Two French horns, a trumpet, reed players (clarinet, flute, piccolo).” Then he added, “A bassoon.”
“I think that’s eight,” he said counting carefully. “And of course a piano that does all kinds of different sounds.”
For Tavcar, his return to Lost Nation for his 20th directing season is personally evocative. He remembers discovering Montpelier and its wonderfully diverse artistic scene in October 1995. “There was a foreign film at The Savoy. The well-known pianist, teacher and musical interpreter Dalton Baldwin was leading an ‘Art Song Festival.’ Lost Nation Theater was doing Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House.’ And there were all these great little restaurants,” he said.
Tavcar dropped off his resume at the Lost Nation box office. In due course, Lost Nation phoned him. That was the beginning. “I got to do other things at Monteverdi, ‘The Wood,’ I wrote for The Bridge.” But back to Lost Nation, “This is the 20th year,” he said.
“I will also have my 70th birthday during the run of the show, on June 11,” he added, as an aside.