W.T. Woodson High School
The tale of the sylvan world of the story books. Into the Woods, performed by Falls Church High School, is littered with humanistic personality flaws, plagued with manipulation, and roamed by fantastical beasts like giants. It's a hilarious twist on classic tales.
Opening on Broadway in 1987, Into the Woods is a notable difficult show. Clocking in at two hours and twenty-six minutes, the first acts seems like a stand-alone show. To add to the difficultly is the score, requiring six strong female soloists, containing various styles of music which is even operatic at times. Yet, Falls Church High School successfully took on the challenges.
The actors were able to show off their talent, especially in the second act where each character got a moment to shine. Songs like "Your Fault" were handled quite well keeping the audience engaged and laughing. There were technical gems to compliment the actors as well. The well done technical elements really helped to immerse the audience in the extremely fictional story.
Lead actress, Danielle Phan, played the Baker's Wife with grace. Playing a giggly and quirky woman, she handled both the comedy and the manipulation of the character. Overall, she was really enjoyable and fun to watch. Her onstage husband, Patrick Kearney (Baker) was also a skilled actor with notable vocals. Together they carried the story well.
Equally as important was the comedic supporting cast. Sarah Mack, an incredibly cute yet scary Little Red Riding Hood, was able to really play with the humor of her mercurial attitude. She was able to find her role in the final surviving four ensemble consisting of herself, the Baker, Jack, and Cinderella. Cinderella, played by Samaria Dellorso, had fantastic vocals. She landed high notes with grace and ease. Her prince, Carson Hopkins, was extremely comical with every hair flip and florid exit. To contrast, the featured Mysterious Man, Colin Page, was really stolid and serious adding to the dark side of the play. A notable twist of the featured characters was to have a human play Milky White, the cow. Cecilia Nguyen handled that challenge well and used her live-advantage to add to the comedy of some of the more serious scenes. She was also extremely consistent while portraying an animal.
To compliment a comedic cast there was some amazing technical elements. While startling both the actors and audience, the special effects team was able to make the set break when a giant stepped on it. The effects helped the audience get involved in the story. The set included trees which fell from the celling illustrating time passage and location changes. The trees not only added to the story telling immersion of the audience, but they were gorgeous. The lighting choices also helped set different tones throughout the show. Overall the technical team helped the audience feel like a part of the narrative.
From immersion, to comedy, to great acting, to amazing vocals, Falls Church High School conquered the challenges of Into the Woods like a giant.
South County High School
What happens when a familiar group of fairytale characters journey "Into the Woods" to get what they wish? Find out in Falls Church High School's production of the whimsical tale.
Written in 1986 by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, Into the Woods tells the story of a childless baker and his wife. Cursed with infertility by the witch next door, the baker journeys into the woods to retrieve objects for the witch to reverse the spell. He encounters many classic fairytale characters during his travels, but the stories we all know and love take an unexpected turn when the kingdom is threatened by an angry giant. As one of Sondheim's most iconic shows, "Into the Woods" has been reproduced many times, including a 2014 film starring Meryl Streep. The show is notable for its witty lyrics and grown up take on the childhood tales which deal with themes of parenting, the loss of loved ones, and coming of age.
At the center of the musical, Patrick Kearney and Danielle Phan, as the Baker and the Baker's wife respectively, played off each other well as a strong comedic duo. Despite their consistent arguments, their love and affection for each other was abundantly clear. Phan's smile lit up the stage, and Kearney dealt with the emotionally difficult material with a poise and maturity that is uncharacteristic of a high school student. Jia Syed, as the Witch, stood out with her powerful voice in the song "Last Midnight".
Sarah Mack, as Little Red Riding Hood, was a clear standout performer as she brought the character to life with the spunk and energy of a young child. Mack handled the difficult music effectively and livened up the stage whenever she set foot on it. Jack Child's performance as the Wolf also stood out. In his one song, he was perfectly creepy and predatory as he preyed upon the young and naive Little Red.
"Into the Woods" doesn't have a designated ensemble. Instead, the main characters make up the ensemble in certain full cast numbers. The choreography was handled effectively, but lacked energy in parts. The standout ensemble was the Final Four which consisted of the Baker, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack Kearney as Jack, and Samaria Dellorso as Cinderella. The four actors had excellent chemistry as a small family unit thrown together by tragic circumstance. Although they quarrel in "Your Fault" as they scramble to place blame, they eventually accept their losses and support each other through difficult times. This ensemble created heartfelt and poignant moments, especially in the song "No One is Alone".
The tech elements were generally effective. While some of the sound and lighting cues were inconsistent, the actors could be seen and heard throughout most of the show. The set design was the strongest tech element. Dealing with multiple settings, they effortlessly created a fairytale land with houses that could be moved on and offstage easily and a multileveled woods setting that provided a space for the actors to play around.
Ultimately, Falls Church High School's production effectively portrayed the nostalgia of the classic fairytales and presented a heartfelt story of hope and accepting responsibility for one's own fate.