‘Into the Woods’ wows the Clark

“Anything can happen in the woods,” was the premise of Cap & Bells’ production of Stephen Sondheim ’50 and James Lapine’s beloved musical, Into the Woods, on last Friday and Saturday night in the Manton Research Center. The musical brilliantly intertwines the original storylines from popular fairytales, providing both a whimsical and dramatic interpretation of these narratives.

This enchanting musical takes its audience to a magical land, where a childless baker (Harold Eric Theurer ’17) and his wife (Nicole Jones ’20) hope to begin a family. This desire leads them to a witch (Alessandra Edgar ’17), who had originally placed this curse on them. In order to fulfill their wish, the baker and his wife must enter into the woods and gather certain objects from recognizable fairytale characters, such as Little Red Riding Hood (Arianna Ruiz ’20), Jack of the Beanstalk (Jack Scaletta ’18), Rapunzel (Erin Kennedy ’19) and Cinderella (Mia Herring-Sampong ’20), who are also in the woods for their own reasons. Beneath the light, comedic plot of Into the Woods lies a series of moral lessons meant not only for children.

Madeline Seidman ’17 and Harriet Weldon ’19 did an exceptional job as directors of the production, presenting an innovative and enjoyable perspective on a classic. The set, managed by William Ouweleen ’19, humorously uses everyday objects to recreate the certain scenes from the musical – a stick with paper airplanes to represent Cinderella’s bird friends, a canopy umbrella that resembles the tree containing Cinderella’s dress for the ball and a backpack for Little Red Riding Hood’s “basket” full of food for Grandmother.

The characters’ costumes, managed by Devyn Hébert  ’17, are necessarily simple with the female characters wearing vintage dresses and shawls while most of the male characters fashioned old vests or coats. With many actors switching in between roles, the uncomplicated outfits allowed them to easily navigate between characters.

Rapunzel and Cinderella’s Princes (Woogie Jung ’19 & Jack Scaletta ’18) are the driving comedic forces with their self-absorbed duet, “Agony.” The production adds to its humor with the seemingly immortal Narrator/Mysterious Man (Elías Ramos ’19), who keeps the story going, and Jack’s beloved cow, Milky White (Kate Feeney ’20), who wins the audience’s hearts with her faithfulness to Jack despite her incapability to produce milk.

Furthermore, the actors and actresses’ musical abilities were exceptional. Herring-Sampong, Kennedy and Edgar stood out the most with their unforgettable voices. Herring-Sampong sang with an operatic voice, thick with passionate vibrato. Kennedy’s light, legato voice sounded just as what one would imagine as a fairytale princess when she sang from the balcony as Rapunzel locked in the stairless tower. Edgar’s portrayal of the witch was executed as genuinely as one could imagine, especially with her impeccable performance of the quick and complex “Witch’s Entrance.”

In addition to the talented cast, one cannot disregard the chamber orchestra. Directed by Sebastian Black ’19, the seven-member orchestra was critical to the dramatic or comedic moments of the musical. Julia Choi ’20 provided a guiding accompaniment on the piano, unifying parts of the production while performances by Scott Daniel ’17 and Delaney Smith ’18 on the violin and viola respectively contributed to the unsettling and cheerful melodies to the action on stage. Overall, the presence of the orchestra enhanced the actors and actresses’ performances.

Into the Woods is a unique musical that adds many twists to what are usually thought of as light-hearted fairytales. The musical is a grown-up fairytale production that reminds us that the greatest stories are not about happy endings, but rather the journeys that lead up to them. As the witch reminds the other characters at the end of the musical, “Children will listen,” and so will adults. Into the Woods reminds us that in order to get whatever we wish for, we must always remain determined, recognizing the challenging journey leading to our acquisition.

In collaboration with the Clark Art Institute, Cap & Bells put on a stunning production of ‘Into the Woods’. Photo courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.