ACT­ING OUT Lights up on ‘Into The Woods,’ ‘And Jus­tice For All’

GA Voice - - Acting Out -

It wasn’t planned, but the early months of 2016 have be­come a Stephen Sond­heim mu­si­cal bo­nanza. Ac­tor’s Ex­press has just fin­ished a ver­sion of “Sweeney Todd” and now Aurora Theatre is set to tackle one of the gay com­poser’s most fa­mous works, “Into the Woods.” We caught up with Justin An­der­son, one of the busiest di­rec­tors around (in­clud­ing the gay-themed “Vonya and So­nia and Masha and Spike” from last year) and Aurora’s as­so­ciate artis­tic di­rec­tor, to tell us about his take on the mu­si­cal.

Ge­or­gia Voice: So what drew you and Aurora to “Into the Woods?”

Justin An­der­son:

This is the third time I have danced with the ma­te­rial. I did a pro­duc­tion when I was a high school teacher back in 2005 and then a pro­duc­tion in 2014 at KSU, so when we were bandy­ing around the Aurora sched­ule, this felt like kind of an an­chor, with some fa­mil­iar­ity. I didn’t want any­thing that felt rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion, or the film ver­sion that re­cently came out.

Where does this fit into Sond­heim’s oeu­vre?

I would say it’s prob­a­bly one of his most ac­ces­si­ble, like “Sweeney Todd.” It seems to be what the av­er­age Joe off the street knows.

Why does this show have such a gay ap­peal?

Lyri­cally, in Act Two, you get into (no­tions) such as the idea of fig­ur­ing it out, how to own your life and your pur­suit of hap­pi­ness and the choices you have to make.

Of course, in 1986 when Sond­heim wrote this, it wasn’t an overt ex­plo­ration of the AIDS epi­demic, but it cer­tainly has lots of over­tones for the time pe­riod. It gets re­ally dark, re­ally fast. It was his way of ex­plor­ing, both he and writer James Lap­ine. There is a lot of the blame game in Act Two - “It’s your fault; No, it’s your fault.” It’s an in­dict­ment of the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion, both overt and covert. It’s not like “The Nor­mal Heart” though. It’s much more meta­phoric.

At­lanta Gay Men’s Cho­rus, At­lanta Women’s Cho­rus join forces

Both or­ga­ni­za­tions per­form around town fre­quently but for the first time the At­lanta Gay ‘And Jus­tice for All’ 8 p.m., March 18 and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., March 19 Peachtree Road United Methodist Church 3180 Peachtree Rd. NE At­lanta, GA 30305 www.voic­e­sofnote.org Men’s Cho­rus (AGMC) and its sis­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion, the At­lanta Women’s Cho­rus (AWC); join forces at an up­com­ing event. The con­cert “And Jus­tice For All” is the pro­ject that has in­spired the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the groups, col­lec­tively re­ferred to as Voices of Note.

The in­spi­ra­tion comes both from a place of unity be­tween the two cho­ruses but also a de­sire to change hearts and minds through mu­sic, says Kevin Ro­bi­son, artis­tic di­rec­tor of AGMC. “We sought an op­por­tu­nity to per­form to­gether in some­thing that is unique, not the norm. We do want to main­tain our own iden­tity, but we saw an op­por­tu­nity and took it.”

Dr. Melissa Arasi, artis­tic di­rec­tor of the At­lanta Women’s Cho­rus since its in­cep­tion three years ago, feels the con­cert is one that, de­spite its themes, is ul­ti­mately up­lift­ing and in­spi­ra­tional.

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