By John Hanright
“It’s a fun show filled with fairytale characters, so it’s great for little kids, but it’s a good show for people of all ages,” says Jeffrey Billard, Director of Barnstable High School Drama Club’s (BHSDC) production of Peter Sondheim’s classic Tony Award-winning musical Into the Woods.
The two-act musical was first performed off-Broadway at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego in 1986 and then premiered on Broadway in November the following year. The novel on which Into the Woods is based, by James Lapine, blends storylines of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, who together originated the fairy tales of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and countless others.
Into the Woods hinges on the story of a baker and his wife who are childless due to a witch’s curse, who go “into the woods” on a quest to lift the curse. Along the way, they meet other characters such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk.
Regarding the dramatic themes of the musical, Billard says, “It has a great deal of poignancy because it deals with parent-child relationships” as well as wish-fulfillment and the consequences of choices people make. “There are a lot of issues with trust in this show, with people not being able to trust each other. People lie to each other all the time, in the show,” says BHS senior Sydney Crook, who plays Jack’s mother.
“The BHSDC choose plays that are challenging, and this is an incredibly challenging one. The music, the length… It’s a big show,” says Billard. “There’s a lot more moving pieces in a musical. You have more people in the cast, there are more directors, there are just a lot of things that need to be integrated.”
Sammy Hurwitz, who plays Little Red Riding Hood in her debut musical at BHS, says “It’s the most high-level production I’ve done. I came from doing middle school productions and this is insane.”
Plays produced by the BHSDC always have student assistant directors, and students help work in all facets of the program, according to Billard. For instance, Crook also serves as the lighting designer for the show. There are a dizzying amount of lighting and sound cues involved, and Crook says she has “relied heavily” on her fellow lighting crew members to manage this.
Assistant director, choreographer, and Little Red Riding Hood double Greta Weber expresses a similar sentiment. “It’s interesting to have both perspectives of getting your vision on stage, but also being the one to create it,” she says. Many cast and crew members are veterans of theater arts and performance.
Weber herself has worked in three other musicals at BHS and numerous others elsewhere, and in college she intends to study directing musical theater. Matt Geiler, another cast member acting as Rapunzel’s prince, who also serves as the lead painter and the creative associate, has worked on four musicals and 19 different shows at BHS. He also plans to study musical theater or stage and screen management.
Speaking about the sweeping and inspiring musical score, the BHS choral director Marcia Wytrwal says, “We’ve done a lot of cuts, so that we enhance all of the choral parts and the solo parts to highlight who we have on stage…It’s a journey, you do go into the woods and out of the woods.”
“It’s going to be good…I think we’re in a good space right now,” says Weber.
Into the Woods opens in the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 17th, at 7 P.M., with additional dates on the 18th, 24th and 25th as well as two special matinees at 2 P.M. on March 19th and 25th. General admission is $15 and $10 for seniors, students, active military personnel, and veterans.