Innovative, creative and captivating. Theatre is back at ZACH and with an outdoor twist and an immersive experience that places audience members right in the middle of all the dramatic action.
In its first musical since the pandemic began, Austin’s ZACH Theatre is utilizing its new People’s Plaza in some of the most imaginative ways. Office chairs line the audience area of the outdoor pavilion, allowing patrons to swivel their chairs around and face the three different stage areas used for Into the Woods. (Now through November 7.)
As several fairy tales merged into one, the resulting tale is a great night out for all ages. As an only-as-ZACH-can reimagined interpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, it is full of surprises. The creators of this piece cleverly use built-in landscape around the theatre as props, including The Topfer Theatre’s own balcony—the perfect area for Rapunzel’s long hair.
Into the Woods combines the Brothers Grimm stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood. Which means we end up with the tale of a childless baker and his wife in their quest to start a family, which is thwarted by a curse from an evil witch.
The play originated in the 1980s but this year’s variation from ZACH is quite different. At several points in the play you will find some humor surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, which is definitely both eye-opening and could be considered humorous. While mentions of toilet paper shortages and everyone watching Tiger King are incredibly laughable, at the same time—full disclaimer—some of this humor surrounding the early days of the pandemic might be too much for anyone still processing any painful memories or losses.
Overall though, the producers seem to be trying to convey a message of light and that “no one is alone.”
“This unique, contemporary approach is designed specifically for Austin, to speak in this moment to the idea of community, our perseverance through life-altering challenges, and the glimmer of light peeking through looking toward tomorrow,” says the ever-creative and longtime ZACH guiding light Dave Steakley, Producing Artistic Director.
An energizing and talented crew, costumes from the play are intricate and detailed, along with exceptional lighting and props. You’ll likely notice that a memorable prop that’s been standing outside of ZACH for years now plays a moving role throughout the production.
Vocal talent is also incredibly apparent throughout the performance with seasoned ZACH actors returning to the stage including Nova Payton, Shelby Acosta, Olivia Clari Nice, Nicholas Garza, Jamie Goodwin, Justine Grace, June Julian, Langston Lee, Jessica O’Brien, Rachel Pallante, Ethan Rogers, Paul Sanchez, Daisy Wright, Theresa Medina and Tricky Jones.
Overall, I highly recommend seeing this show, as the musical literally surrounds the audience and is much more immersive than previous ZACH performances. For example, regardless of where you sit in People’s Plaza, you will have a clear view of each character and their facial expressions. Also, the outdoor atmosphere is especially applicable and appropriate for the atmosphere of a play like this.
ZACH is requiring vaccination cards or a negative COVID-19 test prior to each show.
Into the Woods runs now through Nov. 7. Tickets start around $45 and can be purchased online. Yearly memberships are also available.
Cover photo courtesy ZACH/Suzanne Cordeiro
Britni Rachal lives in Austin, Texas. She is a freelance journalist, full-time marketer, and a Realtor®. In addition to writing, Rachal enjoys traveling, event planning, fashion, fitness and serving the Austin community.