Dominion High School
On the last Friday of April, Grimm tales awaited the audience of Chantilly High School's production of "Into the Woods." This 1986 musical twists classic fairy tales into a dark comedy laced with countless melodic songs, interwoven with numerous overlapping storylines. A baker and his wife wish for a baby, an impoverished mother and son wish for money, and a young girl wishes to go to a festival -- soon, however, they will all learn to be wary of wishes and all that they may bring when one wanders into the woods.
The cast was brimming with bold personalities and high energy that allowed each scene to swiftly transition into the next, all while maintaining the dramatic atmosphere of the show. None executed this skill better than Sydney Schneider's portrayal of the Witch. From the first step into the stage light to the final note uttered, Schneider embodied each aspect of her character with appropriate posture, voice acting, snide remarks, and above all else, visible passion for her work. A perfect representation was The Witch's debut -- Schneider entered, hunching over a cane, cackling maniacally, and chanting vegetable names. Even when not in the spotlight, she could be spotted making crone-like gestures and humorous expressions. This was in contrast to the later emergence of The Witch's true form, exuding an aura of power and beauty combined with the underlying alarm of powerlessness yet still providing life to the stage.
Certain characters are written to be much more memorable than others, and it takes a truly skilled actor to bring those less fortunate characters to life. Ren Lagasse and their portrayal of Little Red Ridinghood did exactly that. Arguably the best part of Lagasse's performance was their impeccable comedic timing, perfectly executing line after line, deadpan quip after deadpan quip. Their facial expressions throughout each scene were key, amplifying each emotion and consistently reinforcing the overdramatic nature of the show. Alyssa Dausch was another who brought life into her role as Cinderella, fully embodying the feel of a Disney princess. With the flutter of her voice and poise of royalty, she gracefully maneuvered through each scene of the production. Alongside her acting abilities, each song that Dausch performed contained an added element of grace and enticement, specifically the comforting and almost motherly number of "No One is Alone."
Framing the production were hand-crafted set pieces (headed by Tyler Hicks and Fin Blinov) which uniquely captured the feel of fairytale woods. The flats themselves, alongside the large painted rooms, gave the exact feel of a children's pop-up book, further adding to the ambiance of the musical. The extension put on the edge of the stage was a genius addition, adding dynamic character interactions from entrances and death to magical disappearances.
Makeup (Abby Lombard and Smriti Balasubramanian) was also especially impressive, aging high schoolers all the way from young teen to old hag. One of the most entertaining branches of this was the Witch's prosthetics -- these crucial features allowed ease of removal to create one of the most unforgettable moments in the production: her transformation.
"Into the Woods" has cemented itself in theater as a classic production that will continue being performed for decades to come, allowing for creative interpretations and technical versatility for each group who produces it. Chantilly High School produced a truly unique variation, adopting key moments while strategically straying off the path to produce an unforgettable performance that left each and every audience member wishing for another chance to watch this cast perform.
Dominion High School
Cinderella got her prince, Jack got his cow, the Bakers got their family, and Rapunzel got a haircut-- if this is truly happily ever after, why are there 75 minutes left? Such was the mystery plaguing all audience minds after the triumphant Act I finale of "Into The Woods" at Chantilly High School. Featuring countless childhood favorites plus a vengeful witch and witty narrator on a giant-slaying, jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching adventure, Chantilly's rendition of Sondheim's Broadway classic tailored the dark fairytale crossover into a whimsical comedy for all ages.
From the moment the show opened, it was clear that the audience was in for a full immersive experience. Set designers Fin Blinov and Tyler Hicks, the latter impressively doubling as Rapunzel's prince, added a unique flair to the woodsy stage -- their winding stage extension seamlessly blended with the original floor, allowing for many statement moments as characters jumped in and out of its cavities. Other noteworthy set pieces included the Grandmother's house, with its screened front creating a silhouette effect, and an elaborate tower, complete with a veranda where Rapunzel (Hannah Moghaddar) stood to serenade the audience with her ethereal, operatic voice.
Despite the large cast of characters and occasional musical stumble, each actor proved a thorough understanding of their role and showcased their individual set of talents at every opportunity. For one, the righteous Baker (Julien DaSilva) and his resolute wife (Anna Anderson) astounded patrons both with their striking chemistry and their realistic portrayal of a couple's argument. Cinderella (Alyssa Dausch) enchanted with her crystal clear vocals and gentle demeanor, particularly towards plucky and commanding Little Red Ridinghood (Ren Lagasse) and caring but obtuse Jack (Christian Schopp). Before and after her youthful transformation, the Witch (Sydney Schneider) demonstrated a remarkable range in vocal timbre and body language, hoarse and prowling in one form while melodic and entrancing in the other -- and yet exuding the same villainous zeal throughout.
Meanwhile, the dynamic duo of Cinderella's prince (Nitish Kommoju) and Rapunzel's prince also entertained the audience with their brotherly bravado, wandering eyes, and casual one-liners like "raised to be charming, not sincere." An unlikely audience favorite, the story's narrator (Owen Lawrence Chambers) -- doubling as a Mysterious Man in the woods -- stole the stage in many memorable moments, including episodes of omniscient mischief and a skillfully executed fourth wall break. And, in her endearing friendship with Jack, the cow Milky White (Harshini Bachu) established a lovable personality without having uttered a single word.
The pièce de résistance was the behind-the-scenes work of the dedicated makeup artists (Abby Lombard, Smriti Balasubramanian) and sound crew. From the drum set that kicked in while the Witch jabbered about her greens to the sliding noise of Milky White gulping down ingredients, the diverse array of sound effects highlighted the humorous side of the show. In a momentous feat of makeup and stage hands, furthermore, the Witch bore a prosthetic chin and nose that were removed within seconds when she reverted to her younger form.
In the musical's closing number, glorious harmonies across the ensemble in the aisles of the theater created a sense of resolve and the happy-adjacent ending that the surviving characters deserved. In a wood where the skies are strange and the winds are strong, Chantilly High School's production of "Into The Woods" enhanced the appreciative audience's chilly spring evening with warm laughter and a little touch of magic.