Quince Orchard High School
"Careful the things you say: children will listen." This moral proved true at Thomas Edison High School's production of Into the Woods, where children and grown-ups alike watched and listened as a fairy-tale unfolded of witches, giants, towers, and wishes that (might) come true.
Into the Woods, with a score by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, opened on Broadway in 1987, winning three Tony awards. Many productions have been staged since, including multiple tours, a 2002 revival, and a 2014 movie adaptation. The musical intertwines several fairy-tales, weaving a tapestry of magic and mystery where characters (and their wishes) are never quite what they seem.
Driving the story were Campbell Wood and Anastasia Tuffin as the Baker and his Wife, a childless couple who enter the woods in search of four magical items that will lift the curse placed on their house. Each had a remarkable grasp of their character, expressing themselves well through voice and song. Wood's comedic timing was much appreciated, but the second act allowed room for more dramatic moments, especially between the Baker and the Mysterious Man (Jordan Ignacio), a forest-dweller who seemed to always be in the right place at the right time to deliver cryptic advice. The ballad "No More" was a shining moment for Wood, displaying the character's insecurities with an air of grief and finality. Tuffin equaled Wood in both skill and delivery, developing a complex character willing to make some less-than-moral decisions for the sake of her wish. Tuffin also displayed an impressive mezzo soprano range, mastering Sondheim's rather difficult syncopated score in her solo "Moments in the Woods". Wood and Tuffin worked even better together as a pair, using movement and inflection to create moments of both romance and dissonance as their relationship evolved during their time in the woods.
Plenty of other characters found themselves in the woods for one reason or another, and each had their chance to shine. Henry Mason and Natalie Laclede each displayed childlike innocence in their roles as Jack and Red Riding Hood, respectively. Mason had an especially well-developed dynamic with Milky White, the surprisingly expressive cow played by Beck Kerlin and Erin Flick. And not to be missed were the Princes (Jackson Whaler and Max Hatzler), two charming (but not necessarily sincere) young men who make a habit of chasing unattainable maidens. Their humorous display of masculine anguish in "Agony" and its reprise were some of the most entertaining moments of the show.
The show was staged with a deceptively simple set (designed by Melanie Landis), including a few trees, a small hut, and a tower draped in ivy. However, this staging was immediately enhanced by the lighting design created by Landis and Aiden Yancy. Colored lights were used to depict the time of day and location of each scene, as well as to draw attention to certain characters at given moments. Color was also employed in the design of costumes, with different shades and styles tying in to a character's social status. Wigs (expertly styled by Sam French) were employed for a few characters, including Rapunzel, whose curly, flower-adorned blonde hair was inspired by illustrations from storybooks.
Though Into the Woods proves that a happily-ever-after is never guaranteed, Thomas Edison High School has certainly found theirs. With an enchanting story and talented performers, these students have created a fairy-tale world you'll never want to leave.
H-B Woodlawn Secondary School
Into The Woods premiered in San Diego over 30 years ago and was brought back to Broadway in 2002. The movie adaptation was released in 2014, while the original fairy tales that the story draws inspiration from were penned in the 19th century. This is not a new story, but Thomas Edison High School's production of Into the Woods brought something new, with their artistic tech designs, goosebump-inducing vocals, and deeply emotional (but funny) performances.
From the start, this version of Into the Woods had its own spin on the tale: the narrator was the story's writer. The lights opened on the writer's apartment, as the writer spun a tale of a baker and his wife who, in order to undo a curse that rendered them barren, had to find a white cow, a red cape, yellow hair, and a golden slipper. These elements brought in the rest of the cast, weaving a comedic and meaningful tale that Thomas Edison High School pulled off exceedingly well.
The Baker (Campbell Wood) and the Baker's Wife (Anastasia Tuffin) were stand-out leads. They each made genius comedic choices, both physically and vocally, that added to their character development while also entertaining the audience. However, when it came time for more heavy moments, their characters' experiences and emotions felt real. Their voices blend well together, as in "It Takes Two", but they are also clearly both gifted vocalists on their own, as in the songs "Moments in the Woods" and "No More", which were emotional performances for each lead. The chemistry between Wood and Tuffin was visible as soon as their first song began, and it remained very strong throughout the show, as did the rest of their performances.
One cannot talk about this production without highlighting the supporting and featured cast. Jada Paul (The Witch), Joanna Madamba (Cinderella), and Maya Pattison (Rapunzel) showed they could hold high notes, sing beautiful runs, and keep up with fast songs. The score is difficult, but they made it seem easy, and their acting was on par with their songs. Max Heltzer (Rapunzel's Prince) and Jackson Whalen (Cinderella's Prince) more than delivered as comedic relief, especially in their duet "Agony" and its reprise. There are many characters in this production, and each one of them stole the show.
Set in the writer's imagination, the sets are whimsical yet functional, with flowers all about the stage creating a stark contrast with the writer's apartment, which itself is an impressive feat for Melanie Landis and other set designers. The apartment is from the present-day, an effect which is produced by the built-in shelves, props, and the writer's modern clothing. Costumers Sophia Tompkins, Cathay Walt, and Ainsley McClure dressed each character in identifiable colors, with different tones symbolizing different social classes. This and other details, like the Act II costume changes, added another level of authenticity to the production. The costumes for Rapunzel, Cinderella, and the wolves were particularly impressive, but all costumes fit the character and added to the story.
It may have only taken one narrator to begin this wonderful story, but it took the entire ensemble to make this production such a success. And a success it certainly was.