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Facing the Life Challenges

W.T. Woodson High School’s production of ‘Into the Woods’

Bryce Menard, Sean McCracken, Claudia Caceres, Emily Bubeck and Joshua Reiter.

Bryce Menard, Sean McCracken, Claudia Caceres, Emily Bubeck and Joshua Reiter. Photo by Kristie McEntire

“Careful the things you say. Children will listen.” While we all want to tell our children to live happily ever after, such dreams are not always that simple. In W.T. Woodson High School’s production of “Into the Woods,” what started out as an innocent amalgamation of fairy tale characters became a powerful story of resilience, responsibility, and letting go of the people we love.

Written by Stephen Sondheim (music) and James Lapine (book), “Into the Woods” premiered on Broadway in 1987, running for 765 performances and earning Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score. The show has since enjoyed numerous revivals and an upcoming film adaptation set to debut in 2014. The story centers on a baker and his wife who have been cursed with infertility by a witch. Determined to have a child, the couple journeys to fulfill the witch’s requests and free themselves of the curse, meeting a slew of characters from Brother’s Grimm fairy tales along the way. Plagued by various obstacles, the characters’ stories intertwine as they deal with the consequences of their choices and the sad truths of mortality and loss.

Tackling the complex harmonies of Sondheim is quite a daunting task for high school students, but the cast took on the challenge with style and professionalism. Particular standout songs included “No One is Alone” and “It Takes Two.” Both the orchestra and cast showcased impressive stamina in the nearly sung-through score.

Driving the plot line, Joshua Reiter as the Baker successfully displayed the sensitive struggles of protecting a loved one, his rich baritone voice filling the theatre with genuine emotion. Opposite Reiter was Emily Bubeck as the Baker’s Wife, whose pleasant vocals and witty line delivery accentuated the contrast with her more vulnerable character interactions. Lara Taylor as the Witch effectively captured the multi-faceted psychological layers of her role, consistently engaging in scenes with vocal inflections without letting a facial mask hinder her ability for expression, her comical cackles balancing cries of agony and frustration.

Portraying the dazzling Cinderella, Lexie McEntire’s mellifluous voice shone throughout the production as she transformed from the figurehead of a princess to a headstrong woman of courage and accountability. As Jack, Drew Bondy impeccably played the sprightly, naïve character with charm, his belting voice soaring in the song, “Giants in the Sky.”

Completely transformed into a mysterious woodland landscape, the stage was filled with a multi-story platform simulating a forest path and various flats representing different households. Props included, among other things, an intricate light-up witch’s staff and authentic baked goods. Despite some occasional cue errors and audible cracks, the sound crew admirably handled the use of 16 body microphones.

The cast and crew of “Into the Woods” successfully contrasted the playful nature of the first act with the serious turn of events in the second. Beneath the innocent fairytales of childhood, poignant undertones bring a sense of raw emotion. Through all the losses of life and opportunity in our world, we—like the Baker, Cinderella, Little Red, and Jack— must remember that someone will be on our side, for no one is ever alone.