Steampunk Sondheim

Senior Julia Di Fiore as The Witch in VUT’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. (Steve Green)

Opera Ventures into the Woods

Vanderbilt Opera Theatre, aided by the Vanderbilt University Orchestra, has put an offbeat spin on Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s fairy-tale-inspired musical, Into the Woods. The setting is decidedly steampunk: a melding of Victorian-era design, industrial gears and steam-powered machinery that is both retro and futuristic at the same time.

“The show takes place inside a giant biosphere—a representation of the stories in which each of the characters feels trapped by the second act,” explains Gayle Shay, director of Vanderbilt Opera Theatre. “Expect to see metallic structures emerging from organic trees, a cow with spigots for an udder, a steward who is more cog than anything else, and a narrator who is none other than Jules Verne, one of the first steampunk authors” (although the term wasn’t coined until the late 20th century).

The production, which was sponsored by the Mary Cortner Ragland Master Series Fund, ran for two performances, Nov. 15 and 17, at the Blair School of Music’s Martha Rivers Ingram Performance Hall.

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