McLean High School
Our story begins as the characters enter the mysterious landscape of the woods, singing a song of their deepest wishes in the pursuit of happily ever after. However, what happens when as soon as they've reached their happy ending, the looming shadow of a giant threatens to crush their dreams underfoot? Bishop O'Connell's Into the Woods proved that in the absence of a fairytale ending, all that matters is that no one is alone.
Into the Woods bewitched its first audience in 1986 at San Diego's Old Globe Theater, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The musical subsequently made its Broadway debut in the following year, where it garnered Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical for Joanna Gleason's performance of The Baker's Wife. Into the Woods has since been revived numerous times, with a high-grossing film adaptation released in 2014. The premise follows numerous storybook characters, such as Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, and a married couple of bakers, who journey into the woods to fulfill their deepest wishes. However, the woods possess a hidden darkness that can tear their wishes from their grasp, transforming their happy little lives into something halfway between a nightmare and a dream.
As the leading duo, Daniel Herrarias (The Baker) and Elise Welsh (The Baker's Wife) provided an endearing performance together, best demonstrated during "It Takes Two." Herrarias and Welsh both had consistently strong vocals and a believable marriage. Welsh additionally breathed life into her character by using versatile yet effective facial expressions, and giving a particularly impactful performance during her death scene.
Contrasting the righteous moral compass of the other characters, Jessica Gliot as the Witch blurred the line between good and bad with impressive emotional dexterity. Her commitment to her character, especially given the difficulty of the role, should be acknowledged. Anthony Socarras' performance of The Wolf also demonstrated devotion to his role, with a spirited rendition of "Hello Little Girl" that had the audience quaking in their seats. Adding some much-needed comedic relief to the production was Jeffrey Hales' Mysterious Man and Victoria Gordon's Granny, who approached their limited stage-time with memorably energetic performances. Campbell Hodges (Little Red Ridinghood) and Paul Bean (Jack) rounded out the ensemble with their childish demeanor, having a dynamic relationship onstage that was enjoyable to watch.
Any production of Into the Woods would not be complete without the woods itself, and the Bishop O'Connell set design team's interpretation was impressively on the mark. They struck a beautiful balance between intricacy and functionality that enhanced the action onstage. The props department displayed a similar attention to detail; during the opening scene, the baker was kneading dough, and commendably realistic loaves surrounded him. Another notable technical element was the costumes, which were almost entirely student done, the most impressive of which being the detailed and well-constructed garment of Cinderella's ball gown. Overall, the technical aspects did a seamless job of plunging the audience into the world of the woods.
Careful the things you say, children will listen; Bishop O'Connell's production of Into the Woods had its audience of children and adults alike hanging on every word. With a show as gold as Cinderella's shoe, these students beautifully weaved a story of wishes, heartbreak, and the reality of a storybook ending.
J.E.B. Stuart High School
Where does magic live? Bishop O'Connell High School invites you Into the Woods of the classic Stephen Sondheim musical. Into the Woods premiered on Broadway in 1987, and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning best score, best book, and best actress in a musical. Into the Woods has continued to gain popularity with a Broadway revival in 2002, and a movie adaptation starring James Corden and Anna Kendrick in 2014.
The musical intertwines the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel with that of a Baker and his wife who long to have a child. After learning that his family has been cursed by a witch (Jessica Gliot) to be barren, The Baker (Daniel Herrarias) and his wife (Elise Welsh) set out to undo the curse. Along the way, they meet a boy trying to sell his cow, a girl on her way to Granny's, and a young woman running from a prince.
Herrarias and Welsh led the cast with their outstanding chemistry and ability to create believable moments of tenderness, as well as ones of anger and frustration. Their duet "It Takes Two" showed off both actors' singing and acting skills, as well as some adorable choreography. Welsh also proved herself vocally with an outstanding performance of "Moments in the Woods."
Sondheim's music is incredibly vocally demanding, but Gliot as the Witch took it in stride showing excellent dynamic range. She portrayed the Witch as a multi-dimensional character, showing her not only as a fearsome sorceress, but also a well-intentioned mother who truly loves her child.
Campbell Hodges as Little Red Ridinghood brought an instant bolt of energy to every scene she was in. With consistent characterization, she effortlessly portrayed both the humorous and more serious moments her character faced, all the while maintaining a childlike demeanor. She always remained engaged and a joy to watch on stage.
Other standouts included Victoria Gordon's hilarious portrayal of Little Red Ridinghood's kooky, somewhat bloodthirsty Granny, that left the audience howling with laughter. Miranda Smith as Jack's frustrated, but ultimately very caring and protective mother also gave an engaging performance. Peter Lucas and Vasili Varfis as Cinderella and Rapunzel's princes, respectively, gave a thoroughly enjoyable, hammed up performance of "Agony," complete with gratuitous pining and shirt ripping.
The costumes added to the fantastical atmosphere of the performance, as well as showing the distinct divide between the upper class and the peasants. One of the most impressive costume pieces was Cinderella's ball gown. Made completely from scratch, the gown shimmered with every movement, looking like it had come straight out of a fairy tale. The Witch's costume included an impressive latex mask to create a hooked nose and warts, as well as a ratty grey wig, which gave a fearsome Medusa effect. The hair and makeup team also created an over 15-foot-long braid for Rapunzel, that included several parts that detached on stage.
The set and lighting placed the show in the sometimes scary, sometimes welcoming, fairy tale woods. The set also included multiple levels allowing for freedom of movement, and interesting stage pictures.
With engaging performances, and dramatic costuming and other technical elements, Bishop O'Connell's magical production of Into the Woods brought to life the classic theme of wishes, and their resulting consequences.