The Magic of Into the Woods

Nadine Khoury, Staff Writer

Into the Woods made for a legendary Berkeley Carroll performance this past month. It was profound, upbeat, and engaging from start to finish, clearly showcasing the amazing talents of the cast.

The plot intertwines the stories of many classic fairy tales, including “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and more. It truly was a crowd pleaser. Junior Caleb Gordon, who played the part of the Baker, describes the plot as “a mosaic of different interweaving stories, which follows many characters as they pursue their dreams and struggle along the way. The story deals with the ideas of longing, obedience, courage, and ramification, just to name a few, all within the fairy tale settings we have come to know and love.”

The story begins with the Baker and his Wife, played by junior Lily Rose Weiss, who seek to have a baby. However, they cannot have the child due to a curse set upon their house by a local witch. This Witch, played by junior Eleanor Pearson, cast the spell as a way to exact revenge on the Baker’s father, played by freshman Henry Pearson. However, for her own unknown purposes, the Witch gives the couple a chance to break the curse by obtaining a set of specific ingredients for her. This is where most of the other stories come into play: each of the ingredients rests with the cast of a different principal fairy tale. The show is entirely set in the woods, in which the couple scavenges for the items in order to meet the witch’s three-day deadline. Other classic tales are intertwined through the couple’s journey. In their search for the ingredients, the Baker and his wife come upon Cinderella, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood and various others, whose various aspirations drive the story along. Cinderella, played by senior Leyla Wade, longs for freedom from her miserable life as a slave to her stepsisters, Lucinda and Florinda (played by senior Amalya Schwartz and sophomore Lena Drinkard) and stepmother (played by senior Emily Katzner). Jack, played by sophomore Miranda Cornell, longs for companionship and to impress his mother (played by senior Hannah Livant). Little Red Riding Hood (played by freshman Emily Cornicello) longs to bring food to her sick grandmother.

The second act continues to intertwine these timeless tales, as the group seeks to right past wrongs and defeat a rampaging giant. Sophomore Tristan Gillia, the student director of the play, directed a scene in the show. In this part of the act, the characters communicate with the evil giant for the first time. “It was great to see what I imagined in my head come to life,” she explains. “It was especially fun to direct that scene. When we would do full runs of the show, I would give notes and advice to the actors. I also loved being a part of the play as an actor as well. I played Merryweather, who is one of the fairies to Sleeping Beauty. I got to help out onstage and off. Getting to try something new was challenging but really fun and rewarding.” Tristan set a great example as a leader and a fellow actor. Director Justin Indovina exclaims that the cast “was very grateful to all of the hard work of our student director, Tristan Gillia. Her insight and determination made her an asset to the production and I believe the students learned a lot from getting to work with her.” She clearly took charge and set a great example as a leader, and a peer.

Other principal roles included Rapunzel (played by sophomore Julia Pike), and the two princes of the local kingdom, played by junior Cooper Lippert and senior Emmett White, who fall in love with Cinderella and Rapunzel, but can’t be satisfied. To top it off, in addition to playing the Baker’s mysterious father, freshman Henry Pearson also engagingly narrated the whole play, which added a comedic flair to every aspect of the epic musical.

This great production resulted from a truly dedicated and devoted cast of actors, who greatly value their experience in the production. “Never before have I worked with such a supportive cast,” exclaims senior Hannah Livant (who played Jack’s mother). “Everyone was there for eachother everyday no matter what. Though the music was hard (I mean Sondheim!) and amazing (I mean SONDHEIM). It was always worth it.” Hannah wasn’t alone in her view. Freshman Emily Cornicello, who played Little Red Riding Hood, recalls the sense of camaraderie among the members of the cast: “I became friends with a lot of people during the play. It’s easy to make friends with people from other grades because everyone in the play has one thing in common: The love of theater.” she adds humorously. “I learned that the musical is a pain. It’s very difficult to work on, but it’s so rewarding in the end.” Eleanor Pearson concurs: “One of the most enjoyable things about this play was the cast. I never worked with such a close group of people that had so much fun putting on a wonderful show.”

Adapting to different roles was an obstacle each actor had to face, but they unanimously agree that it was worth it, and that it taught them so much as actors. That was one of the best parts about watching Into the Woods- you could tell that all the actors had put their own spin on their characters. As Caleb Gordon (Baker) explains, each cast member made great strides “to portray [his or her] character most truthfully.” The individual performance of each actor showed their innovation. Henry Pearson’s liking to “pass the story along to the audience” as narrator, and play around with movement and voice as the mysterious man, Cooper Lippert’s love to “exaggerate” his part, or Caleb Gordon’s resolve to stress “the Baker’s anger or frustration at different points in the play,” demonstrate that the cast clearly internalized these roles and made them their own. The challenge behind this was part of the fun, as Eleanor Pearson explains: “I really enjoyed playing the Witch because it was very different from any character I have ever played. I had to work very hard to make a distinct change between the Witch in the first act and the Witch in the second act.” She goes on to say that she “loved playing a character that was so complex and had so many layers. I had to find her vulnerabilities and figure out how to incorporate them into my performance. I wanted to show the audience that there is more to her than just being a crazy, cruel Witch.”

Mr. Indovina recognized the hard work and effort of everyone in the cast, as he told me that “Into the Woods is a challenging show even for professionals, but I knew that the students would be up for the challenge. It is a show that I have wanted to direct for several years, and I do believe that the students rose to the challenges presented.” He went on to say that “the hard work of all the students and the production team was evident in the performance. The students used their storytelling skills to the best of their abilities and I couldn’t have been prouder of them.”

The efforts of the actors were also clearly noted by the audience as well. When I spoke to a few BC students who had seen the show, I found their awe unanimous. Sophomore Nicole Meza really summed the community’s overall opinion when she told me “the cast worked together elegantly as friends and cast mates to create a beautiful show!” To add to the overall admiration of Into the Woods, freshman Camille Johnson said, “I thought it was incredible that the cast was able to memorize such a long play with so many songs and lines in a short amount of time and with lots of precision.  The cast and crew did such a great job and were so engaging!”

In addition to the brilliant acting, the success of the performance as a whole greatly depended on a lot of work behind the scenes. For one, the lighting was intricately planned, and the crew brilliantly executed the design throughout the show. This truly contributed to the overall perception of the show. For example, in many scenes, the more direct the spotlight, the more intense a particular moment was. To add to the long lists of efforts off stage, the costumes designed by Mr. Kessler were brilliantly designed. From Cinderella’s sky blue dress to Little Red Riding hood’s blood red cloak, the costumes showed the immense amount of effort put into intricately designing, fitting and constructing the costumes from big picture to little picture issues.

However, the behind-the-scenes work involved more than costume design. The production team faced the heavy burden of reconstructing the woods without overcomplicating the set in a way that might distract the audience from the actors’ performance. However, even kept simple, the set was beautiful. The “elegance and simplicity” of the set (as Mr. Vitalo put it in one of his announcements) truly gave focus and depth to the plot, while accurately reconstructing the setting. Of course, this took an immense amount of effort from the production design team. “The hardest part of the set design was cutting out the rolling trees,” production design manager Mr. Kent explains. “To create the trees so that they were full but had natural spaces in between the branches we had to cut the wood into very thin intricate shapes.” This piece of the set was a crowd pleaser for many reasons. The accuracy of the large tree right to the stage looked so lifelike! Because the set was less detailed and focused on creating a woodsy effect, the blocking and direction faced the challenge of distinguishing parts of the setting. With this elaborate blocking and some on-point acting, the actors defined certain implied details of the set to really communicate their environment to the audience.

One of the last major elements of the performance was the innovative use of song and dance. Each step was on beat (thanks to musical director Eric Thomas-Johnson and pecussionist Mary Rodriguez), and clearly expressed the mood of each musical number. Mrs. Majors, who choreographed the scenes, had a great time with this play: “This was a new musical for me and, as I had never seen it before, I approached it with a fresh and open attitude, allowing ideas to come to me during the rehearsal process rather than directing a previously planned scheme.”

Senior Jamie Goodin, the stage manager, exclaims that “it was an amazing experience, and I am glad that my last show here at BCS got to be one of my personal favorites. Everyone really respected each other and the whole environment was so positive, even if it was tense or scary at times. To see an amazing production happen in so little time and to see people enjoy it as much as they did was incredible.” The rest of the crew shares his sentiments. Set Design Director Jim Kent felt that this show really “raised the bar. The music was very hard and the show itself was very long. The show required a lot of stamina from the cast to make it through the rehearsal process – even if it was only about 35 days.” Such an impressive feat couldn’t have been accomplished without a highly driven and efficient production team.

The audience clearly recognized all the effort that the crew put into the show. The roar of applause at the curtain call was one of the loudest I’ve personally ever heard. Each member of this great production has taken so much from the experience, and we all look forward to the production of another unique and engaging musical by the BC community next year.