Sheena Janson plays the Baker’s Wife in the wonderful Mu Performing Arts production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods (Mu, performing at Park Square Theatre, through Aug 5). Ms. Janson is quite the best actor in the show, no mean feat given the super-high standard of performance set by the rest of the cast. She plays the Baker’s Wife (the lead, if this show can be said to have one) with a sinuous spirit, infectious passion and real musical aplomb. We will undoubtedly be seeing more of her work in the future. HowWasTheShow.com was privileged to speak with Ms. Janson recently:
HowWasTheShow.com: Where are you from?
Sheena Janson: I grew up in the St. Cloud area. I graduated from St. Cloud State in 2007 – after changing majors three times (I finally settled on Theater). I moved to the Twin Cities and worked with Climb Theatre, the educational touring company. I did one season with them, plus some administrative work. I was a performing apprentice with the Children’s Theatre Company. I did Cinderella, Iron Ring and Mulan (which featured Katie Bradley as Mulan; she plays the witch in Into The Woods).
HWTS: You were memorable as Marcy in the Latté Da Putnam County Spelling Bee.
SJ: I did [Mu’s] Little Shop [of Horrors]. This is the second time I’ve played the Baker’s Wife.
HWTS: You’ve done Into The Woods before?
SJ: This is my fourth Into The Woods. My second Baker’s Wife. The first time I played the role, at St. Cloud State, I modeled her after the film version, with Joanna Gleason. I didn’t really think about the meaning, about her need to have a child.
This time, though, I’m older. And I’m playing the role with Randy Reyes, and working with a sharp and intelligent director, Rick Shiomi. I really felt the horror of the Baker’s Wife’s infertility, her need to have a baby. This time through she has more passion.
Into The Woods explores what happens after “ever after”. How we always end up wanting more. In the high school version of the play, the show ends with Act 1. Act 2 is darker. An outside force – a giant – comes and shakes everything up.
HWTS: Watching the show, the music seems complex and multi-leveled and challenging – late Sondheim. Is it as hard to do?
SJ: The music is very difficult. Very rich. The songs reflect what has just happened and also what is about to happen. You would want to experience the songs more than once and every time we perform them we hear something else.
HWTS: The play is performed with so much zest and spirit. It’s easily enjoyed, despite the occasionally difficult music.
SJ: It’s selling very well and now that construction on 94 is finished I hope the next two weekends do even better.
HWTS: What’s next?
SJ: As soon as Into The Woods closes I’m performing an original show at the Fringe, Fruitfly, The Musical (Rarig; Aug 5, 6, 9, 10, 11). I wrote it with Max Wojtanowicz. Michael Gruber composed music and Nikki Swoboda directed.
HWTS: Good luck, and enjoy the rest of the run.