It's somehow reassuring when Cinderella ends up happily with her Prince Charming. Even the Brothers Grimm version, which has the stepsisters sawing off their heels to fit their feet into the princess slipper, has a happy ending.
But what happens after Cinderella gets her prince? You'll recognize the characters in Pine Creek High School's upcoming production of Into the Woods, but you won't get fairy-tale endings.
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical touches on aspects of the human condition, including the challenge of growing up and the dilemma of getting what you want, only to realize that now you want something else. And what it does to the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and others can be harsh, according to Susana Polo of The Mary Sue, a blog on "girl geek culture": "The widow of the giant Jack slew, for example, rages with grief, murdering several major characters and destroying pretty much everybody's home."
"It's a very fun, entertaining musical, but it also has a message that you need to be involved in your community and not just sit by and let things happen," says Pine Creek Theatre director Carrie Barnhardt-Roberson.
Despite being a high school, Pine Creek has a reputation for producing professional work. Barnhardt-Roberson, who's led the District 20 program for a decade, was named Colorado High School Theatre Educator of the Year in 2008. Head volunteer Lupe Robinson won the 2010 Colorado Volunteer Award from the Alliance for Colorado Theatre. And the program has received honors at the Colorado State Thespian Conference.
Barnhardt-Roberson and her students are as innovative as they are talented. For instance, this take on Into the Woods will feature a living forest in which 11 students act as trees that move with the scenery, fall when the Giant approaches, and hide people with their artistic foliage.
Into the Woods premiered on Broadway in 1987 and received several Tony Awards. Today, Walt Disney Pictures is working on the first film adaptation. To Barnhardt-Roberson, the story ranks with Fiddler on the Roof as something that reaches people of all ages and backgrounds.
"This show has so many of those same aspects within it: crossing borders, crossing religions, beliefs, values," she says. "It's very relatable."