When UC Irvine opens its two-weekend production of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" on Friday night , the cast members will have experienced a link to the musical's first Broadway production.

Pamela Winslow Kashani, an Orange County resident who played Rapunzel in the original show in 1987, met with the UCI students during a rehearsal for the fairy tale musical.

The actress recently returned from New York where she performed in a one-woman show, "Change Happens," which used her biography to "investigate what it means to be human." Earlier in the year, she worked in London with Harold Prince and Susan Stroman on the new musical "Paradise Found."

Kashani earned a Drama Desk award for best musical revival as a member of the 2009 production of "Hair." She also has a Tony award for producing last year's best musical, "Memphis."

At UCI's Claire Trevor Theater, Kashani met with director Eli Simon and musical director Daniel Gary Busby, along with cast members to discuss the intricacies of perhaps the most popular show of Sondheim's repertoire.

The ensemble cast includes familiar characters from fairy tales — Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel — along with a few that Sondheim and book author James Lapine created themselves — the Witch, the Baker and his wife — who actually anchor the story.

The role of Rapunzel is one of several Kashani has played on Broadway. She's also been Lucille in "Meet Me in St. Louis," Babette (the feather duster) in "Beauty and the Beast" and another turn in "Into the Woods," this time as Cinderella.

She and her husband, Orange County's Tim Kahani, founded a film, television and theater production company, Apples and Oranges, through which she hosts the TV series "Arts Coast to Coast," a bicoastal celebration of the arts. With all this activity, she still finds time to home-school her young son.

"Into the Woods" will be presented tonight through Nov. 20 at the Claire Trevor Theater, UC Irvine.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: "Into the Woods"

WHERE: Claire Trevor Theater, UC Irvine

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 16-20, matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Nov. 20.

COST: $25 to $28

CALL: (949) 824-2787