Once upon a time, Jessie Mobley was in high school and she played the baker’s wife in the school’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS. It has been on her bucket list to revisit the role ever since.
“To get to play this role with my life experience now, as a married woman, as a mother has been a dream come true,” says Mobley, “there are so many things that she goes through on her journey that I understand the weight and consequences of now. Before I didn’t understand what a marriage relationship could look like; that there can be love within contention and understanding the different layers of a relationship, even within a single relationship; how a marriage can take different forms even throughout individual challenges or journeys.” She also acknowledges “it’s Sondheim, so it’s been a lot of homework for everybody in the cast. It has been a great challenge and an interesting journey and I’m really glad to be on this side of it because it’s fun now!”
Mobley is originally from Northern Virginia and met husband, Nate, when performing together in a production of Peer Gynt in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple live in South Pasadena with their two sons who attend Arroyo Vista Elementary and a nearby pre-school. After realizing that teaching was her calling, Mobley’s theatre passion took a backseat; until now. “It was a perfect moment of timing in terms of when this was rehearsing and now that we’re in performances, the theater is ten minutes from my school,” Mobley tells us, “it feels crazy because it’s such a part of my identity but no one on this coast has ever seen me perform. To have my kids be able to see me or my co-workers come see the show and my friends; it’s such a fun turn of events.”
INTO THE WOODS is a mash-up of various fairytales woven together by the main quest of the baker and his wife that a witch has sent them on in order to finally have a child. They must go into the nearby woods to collect a cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold. Along the way they meet Rapunzel, Cinderella and her stepmother and stepsisters, Little Red Ridinghood, a wolf, a couple of princes, Jack, a beanstalk and a couple of giants who thwart and help them on their journey. This production is in an intimate, 98 seat theater and the action has been set in the attic of the narrator telling the story. The actors cleverly pop in and out of armoires and trunks while using found objects as props. It’s fantastically creative and director Taylor Wesselman has gathered an outstanding, talented cast.
Mobley indeed brings her life experience to the baker’s wife, instilling her with wit, wisdom and an aching yearning beautifully on display as she sings Moments In The Woods in the second act. Tiffany LaBarbera Palmer is exceptional as the Witch, delightfully mean and hilarious while managing to convey the hidden layers of vulnerability as she sings Children Will Listen and Stay With Me. Another standout performance comes from Mick Torres playing the Baker with strong vocals and affable charm while Jack is played with perfect, wide-eyed wonder by Jacob Krech. Jennifer Strattan gives a hysterical turn as the bratty, precocious Little Red Ridinghood and Hannah Bushyeager brings a gorgeous lyrical voice to both Cinderella and Rapunzel.
The rest of the cast is equally strong in multiple roles from David Gallic’s goofily besotted prince, evil stepsister and believe it or not, Milky White the cow(!), to Jacob Reynold’s shallow prince, a stepsister and the sexy beast of a wolf, alongside the tough as nails performance of Susannah Corrington as Jack’s mother (and two more mothers!), an energetic Madelyne Heyman as the steward and the very touching performance of the narrator by Michael John Shaughnessy.
And of course at the core of it all there is Sondheim’s lush and glorious music. In the cozy setting of the attic, the music comes through in its pure form and beauty.
Music Direction by Adam Jones (on piano and Jon Walburg on violin), choreography by Katy Marcella, costumes by Charlene Kim, stage management by Hayley McClintock, Production Assistant (Alison Kerstiens), Directed and Produced by Taylor Wesselman. Into the Woods is the first show in Domino One’s residency at the Grove Theater Center. Tickets are $25 for General Admission and $20 for Student/Senior and can be purchased at dominooneproductions.com/store.
For more information about the show or company email dominoneproductions@gmailcom.