For “Into the Woods,” Evan Rees is out of the pit.
Rees is the music director and pianist for Fiasco Theater’s production of the Stephen Sondheim musical, which is stopping at the Kennedy Center following great success in New York. The show brings together fairy-tale characters — Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack (of beanstalk fame) among them — to examine what happens after happily ever after. In this stripped-down production, the cast has shrunk to 10 members (thanks to some actors taking on multiple roles), the set is simple, and Rees — the only permanent member of the orchestra — performs at a piano right onstage with the actors. He even has a few lines of dialogue.
The setup has given Rees new insight into how music functions in this show in contrast with others.
“Usually we’re in the [orchestra] pit, and you’re in your black [clothing] and you listen for your warning cue and you put your headphones on and you play a song and then you check your email,” Rees says. “You’re not fully engaged in what’s happening. Part of why this is so special for me is I really feel like I’m one of the storytellers. I’m there in the space, engaged with the other people telling the story, and we’re all tuned in to each other.”
That goes beyond not being able to check Facebook when the actors onstage don’t need him.
“I really feel like I’m with them and I’m one of them, as opposed to sort of helping them,” he says. “One of the main muscles that I had to beef up was allowing what I do to come organically out of what’s going on in the drama and not just hearing my cue and going, ‘Now I’m playing.’ It’s very different, but it’s a gift, because then you really find all these colors and emotions and things that you would have expected to find in your playing.”
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; through Jan. 8, $49-$175.
More D.C. events