‘Reunion x Two’ in Waterworks show

Published 11:37 am Thursday, March 24, 2016

By Craig Challender

“Into the Woods,” the Waterworks Players’ next show opening on April 1, is not only a reprise (Waterworks first staged this musical 23 years ago in the spring of 1993) but a reunion as well: two members of the original cast, Dave Culler and Martha Womack, are appearing in the upcoming production.

Though 1991’s “Big River” was Culler’s first appearance on a Waterworks stage, he was still a relative newcomer to Farmville when he was cast as both the narrator and the Mysterious Man in Stephen Sondheim’s Drama Critics Circle Award-winning show.  “Just” the narrator this time around — (“I’ll be in, but not of, the audience — the benefits of age,” he says), Culler remembers his first stint with fondness and humor.  His dual roles required many rapid costume changes and one of them, “a costume of rags,” came apart once backstage. “I had to go out in half a costume — a real ‘costume of rags,” he said.

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Womack has appeared in over 30 Waterworks shows, beginning with “Adrift in New York” in 1991. Prior to the 1993 production of “Into the Woods,” she saw Sondheim’s “great show” at the Kennedy Center and “fell in love” with the character of Little Red Riding Hood. Winning the part of Little Red was the thrill of a lifetime. “Though I’m not a soprano,” Womack said, “I changed my voice to sound younger, and (director) Linda Sauve had the music changed to a lower key. I still remember all the lines.”

In the current production it’s Womack who has the dual roles: the spirit of Cinderella’s mother and Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. “It’s interesting, kind of a blow to the ego,” she laughed, “to go from ‘Little Red’ to ‘Granny.’”  As she searched her wardrobe for costumes, Womack discovered the shoes she had worn, “only that once,” as Red Riding Hood. She wants to donate them to the theatre.

Both Culler and Womack fondly remember the old State Theater where the first “Into the Woods” was performed.  Projecting out past the classic proscenium stage was a circular walkway erected over the first six rows of seats; whenever the actors went “into the woods,” they left the stage onto this walkway. “It was really close to the audience,” Womack recalled, “and there was tons of smoke” to enhance the woods’ magically menacing atmosphere. Culler liked how the sets there could be raised and lowered, making the scene changes varied and relatively easy. Originally a vaudeville venue, the theatre’s dressing rooms were many and roomy, something appreciated by both Waterworks veterans.

This “once more, with feeling” version of “Into the Woods” runs Friday and Saturday, April 1-2 and April 8 at 8 p.m. and April 9 at 9 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, April 10.  It’s a great opportunity to relive old memories and make new ones.