• High School musical production big, bold, funny, and well done
By Tribune staff
“Into the Woods” takes creative license with centuries old Grimms Fairy Tales, and in the process resurrects them to new levels of logic.
Like Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters. After the famed ball Cinderella flees and drops a slipper and the Prince and his valet arrive.
In their eagerness to be the one whom the shoe fits, the stepsisters chop off their own big toes. That illustrates ambition.
And what’s the deal with Cinderella’s flight from the prince? If landing a prince-husband is such a desirable goal some would chop off a toe for the honor, why would a girl in her right mind flee?
In the hands of 90 Homer High School students under the creative direction of Lance Petersen and Mark Robinson, “Into the Woods” was by turns hilarious and somber while always engrossing. This was, after all, a familiar set of stories rendered new by a re-envisioning.
The play is based on music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. It debuted in San Diego in 1986. The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them further to explore the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests as they head into the “unknown.”
“It is scary and exciting to venture into the woods,” the narrator tells us at the beginning. “Sometimes people never return from their journey; and those who do return are changed – they know things they never knew before.”
The main characters are taken from the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, tied together by a more original story involving a baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family.
Since it involved so many students, Robinson said it was a major accomplishment and its creation was a commitment of time from many people.
“We started in January with auditions. It would be 90 cast members, a full orchestra in the pit and the choir,” Robinson said.
Jill Berryman choreographed the production. Laura Norton held a lot of pieces together as the production manager, and Peter Norton was the assistant director. JulieAnn Smith was the accompanist. Bobbie Lee Briggs did sound, while Jess Bolt did lighting.
Each year, the school puts on a big production that takes weeks and weekends to bring to fine tune for the stage. They have done “Rent,” “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” This was the first production that used a pit orchestra.
The town turns out for these huge productions: Saturday’s final performance packed the house of 500 seats. “It’s a lot of people who help put it together,” Robinson said.
“The story line provides a mishmash of Grimms Fairy tales that intermingle. Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, everyone lives happy ever by the end of the first act,” Robinson explained. “The second act, though, is thought provoking in what happens after happy-ever-after. Be careful what you wish for.”
Grimms were always teaching tools, Robinson points out. “They give you things to think about. They were teaching tools and this kind of is too. It’s fun and funny, and it’s also thought provoking and emotional in places. A wide range of emotions.”
The play is held together by a quest undertaken by Baker and his wife, who must, in order to be released from a curse, gather four objects: a cape as read as blood, a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold, all before the chime of Midnight in three days’ time. This means talking Riding Hood into giving up her cape, getting the only remaining slipper away from Cinderella and conning Jack to trade his cow for “magic” beans, as well as taking a quick snip of Rapunzel’s hair when she lets it down from the tower.
In the second act, the notion of living happily on is found to not be a worthy goal after all. The characters seem happy but are, ironically, still wishing: The Baker and his wife have their precious baby boy, but wish for more room; Jack and his mother are rich and well-fed, but Jack misses his kingdom in the sky; and Cinderella is living with her Prince Charming in the Palace, but is getting bored. What to do?
A giant coming down from his bean stock and a witch bent on murdering poor Jack certainly get it all stirred back up again.
Of particular note in this production was the high level of talent in the not-easy task of singing, dancing and acting. Jack, played by John Walsworth, was funny and endearing in his severe attachment to the cow he must trade at the market. Mariah Stuart, as Jack’s mom, held pitch perfect as the nagging but beset mom trying to feed her family. Hannah Baird was a forceful, convincing witch yet managed to portray charm and irony. The unfortunate Jacob Mayforth, trying to get Riding Hood’s cape from her, was endearing and funny. Herman Hannan’s wolf was forceful – and amusing – hinting the reasons girls need to be on guard in dark places like the woods. And Cinderella, played by Kirsten Swanson, was convincingly not eager to become the princes’ misses.
Judging by the applause and frequent laughter, the high school students had achieved a high level of performance – good enough to be taken to Broadway.
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