What happens after happily ever after? The great Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim posed this question in his now-classic musical Into the Woods. Now, the woods are coming to the desert—the outdoor stage at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
“It’s been a show that I’ve loved for many years,” director and producer Joe Hynes says, explaining that he fell in love with the original cast production after watching it on PBS, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch.
In Super Summer’s version, Las Vegas entertainer Traci Kesisian fills that iconic role. “It’s one of my most favorite characters ever written,” she says. “I get to be ugly. I get to be glamorous. There’s heart, and there’s humor.”
In case you’ve somehow missed the many revivals over the years—or the hit 2014 Disney film adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Chris Pine and Emily Blunt—the plot is born of an interlocking fairy-tale mashup. The Witch sends the Baker and his wife on a quest that leads them to interact with Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and others. Jack and his beanstalk, a murderous giantess and two charming princes join the fun before story’s end.
Kesisian played the Witch once before, about 20 years ago. She wasn’t a mother then, but now she is and that has changed everything, she explains. The Witch has an “intense and great love” for her adopted daughter, Rapunzel, Kesisian says. “It might be twisted—she locks her daughter in a tower—but now as a mom, I get the witch. If I could lock my kids in a tower, I would.”
For the former lead female singer of the Tropicana’s now-shuttered Folies Bergère, the joy is in the challenge of playing such a dynamic character. The Witch’s Act 1 costume is extremely hot due to the wig, mask and layers of costume and makeup. “It’s a tough role vocally,” Kesisian says. Belting out songs in an “old, ugly witch voice” while physically hunched over is difficult, not to mention the intense Sondheim score. Still, she says, she loves it. “She’s a strong, funny, sassy character—a dream to play, really.”
The Tony Award winning musical will kick off Summer Theatre’s new season, which also includes favorites A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 26-July 13), Chicago (July 31-August 17), Annie (August 23-25) and Noises Off (September 5-21).
No matter what’s playing, Super Summer Theater is a Vegas family tradition worth consideration. “I think it’s the best-kept secret in Las Vegas and I wish more people knew about it,” Hynes says, who has directed six productions for SST. “Where else can you bring a blanket and a bottle of wine and food and enjoy a great night of theater under the stars?”
INTO THE WOODS May 22- June 8, Wednesday-Saturday, 8 p.m., $15. Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 702-579-7529.