May 1, 2014
Aimee Doherty journeys “Into The Woods”
Fairy tales are filled with princes and witches and monsters and magic. Whatever trials the characters face, the stories usually build to a happily-ever-after ending. But did you ever wonder what happened after that?
That’s the jumping off point for “Into The Woods,” the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine retelling of some of the world’s most enduring fairy tales. Lyric Stage Company presents the 1987 Tony Award-winning musical from May 9 to June 15.
In this musical mash-up, the lives of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack & The Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and others are intertwined to create an adult fable of morality, responsibility, and the consequence of our actions. And to remind that we’re all connected, whether we realize it or not.
The story centers on a Baker and his wife longing to have a child. They live next door to a Witch who once cursed them into their childless existence. Now, the gnarled hag offers to lift the spell if they agree to venture into the woods and prove themselves via a series of tasks.
It is on this journey that they cross paths with the other characters – also on journeys – as they attempt to collect “a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.”
They all resort to less than honorable means to achieve what they’re after. And although everyone gets his or her wish by the end of the first act, the story continues in Act Two to show how their ambitions come to haunt them.
When all is said and done, does marrying a prince really solve your problems? Does beauty trump power? As the lyrics note: “Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s good.”
The Boston actress Aimee Doherty has been cast as The Witch in the ensemble at Lyric. From productions of “Nine” to “Grey Gardens,” “Wild Party,” “On the Town,” “Speed The Plow,” “Follies” and others, Doherty has become a Boston favorite. Coincidentally, this is not her first time performing “Into The Woods.” She played Cinderella in the New Rep production in 2005.
“That was the second professional production I ever did,” she said. “It really introduced me to the Boston scene because it was so well received . . . (Now) I can’t wait to play The Witch. I think it’s so interesting to play her because she’s supernatural and I’ve never played a part like that before. The possibilities are kind of endless.”
Created on Broadway by Bernadette Peters (and played by Meryl Streep in the film version due out at Christmas), The Witch clashes with all the characters, but has a particularly unhealthy bond with Rapunzel. Said Aimee, “It’s about the mistakes you make when you feel like you’re alone. Her relationship with Rapunzel is similar to Lenny with the bunny in ‘Of Mice and Men.’ He loves it so much that he crushes it. I think a lot of the characters have the same problem.”
While some actors find Sondheim’s music and lyrics daunting and difficult, Doherty feels the opposite. “His lyrics draw me to the project,” she said. “His lyrics aresecond to none. They tell such a story. Half of your work is done by just singing the words. They’re so descriptive.”
“Ignorance is bliss,” she added with a laught. “Some trained singers take a look at the music and freak out. I have a little dance background and the rhythm and the rhythm changes make sense to me.”
Born in Northampton, she was raised in Bellingham. And despite first taking to the stage for a high school production of “Grease,” she actually came to her professional life as an actress a little later than most.
She grew up attending shows with her grandparents and listening to her Mom’s collection of cast albums. But theater was mainly a fun activity. It was only after she’d been out of college for four years that “I started thinking maybe I would do some community theater as a way to express myself artistically and have fun and get to know people. That’s when I auditioned for ‘Wonderful Town’ at the Walpole Footlighters.”
It was in her next show that she would meet her husband, Jeff Mahoney, who’s also appearing in “Into The Woods” at Lyric, playing the Steward.
Knowing the depth of her talents, audiences may be surprised to learn that Doherty has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Chemistry from UMass Amherst and is a freelance environmental consultant.
“My Dad was always a big camper and I’ve always loved the mountains and being outdoors,” she said. “I was in college and I was studying microbiology . . . but after a while I realized that I just couldn’t spend my life in a lab looking through a microscope.”
Her transition into environmental chemistry came almost by default. “I thought, how am I going to make all these credits transfer into a different major,” she said. “And I started looking at environmental science. When I got out of school, I starred working immediately. I was very lucky.”
The change in the economy brought about changes in the industry, and Doherty transitioned into working as a consultant. “In a nutshell, I worked to clean up soil and groundwater contamination at hazardous waste sites . . . I was in charge of developing remediation plans then supervising them. . . I still do it from time to time, but the majority of my work is focused on acting now.”
Adding to her local history, her great- grandfather, a Shea, emigrated from County Cork and in 1917 founded the professional roofing company, John F. Shea Company in Mattapan. Her paternal Doherty ancestors arrived in Boston from County Monaghan via Prince Edwards Island.
Overall, Doherty feels very lucky to be based in Boston and has no plans to move on. “I have roots and I have family in Massachusetts . . . I’m happily married, I have a house, and I kind of just love doing these shorter engagements in Boston. As a matter of fact, several of my friends who work in New York are jealous of the artists in Boston because we get to have such variety . . . There’s a sense of community in Boston that I would miss if I went to New York.”
R. J. Donovan is Editor and Publisher of onstageboston.com.
“Into The Wood,” May 9 to June 15, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston. Tickets: 617-585-5678 or lyricstage.com.