The Young Actors Conservatory of The Ensemble Theater Company (ETC) will offer four performances of the celebrated Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine fairy tale musical Into the Woods (1987), Aug. 16-18, in the New Vic Theater, 33 W. Victoria St.

The show, directed by Brian McDonald, stars 16 students from Santa Barbara County, with musical direction by J.P. Douglas, scenic design by Richard Croy, lighting design by Liam Strong, costume design by Abra Flores, and sound design by Kenny Hobbs.

Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics; James Lapine the book. Opening on Broadway in 1987, the musical ran for 764 performances and won, among other awards, Tonys for Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (these in a season dominated by The Phantom of the Opera).

Tout le monde knows Sondheim, of course. James Lapine is less well-known, but he wrote and directed Impromptu, which is my nominee for the best feature film ever made about real artists (George Sand, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin and Eugene Delacroix) and casts two of the greatest living actresses, Judy Davis and Anna Massey, as mother and daughter.

It was up to Lapine to stitch together the fairytales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and The Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood with a very plausible original story about a Baker and his Wife and their project of starting a family.

“Having the opportunity to kick off ETC’s first youth production with Into the Woods is such a thrill for me,” said McDonald, ETC’s first full-time director of education and outreach.

“Thanks to the support from local individuals and foundations, we were able to increase our outreach efforts and assemble a cast of local young performers whose creative passion and erudite performances are an absolute must-see experience,” he said.

Into the Woods plays at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Advance ticket prices are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and children 12 and under (tickets purchased at the door the day of the performance are subject to a $5 increase per ticket).

Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling ETC box office, 805-965-5400, in person at the box office, 1-5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, or online at

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.