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“Into the Woods”: A Preview of this Year’s Upper Elementary Musical

This year for the much-anticipated UE play, MMS fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are performing “Into The Woods,” by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, for a two-day run over March 13 and 14. Sixth grader Jospeh K. offers a preview here:

“Into The Woods” is the story of a baker and his wife who find out about a curse on their house which prevents them from realizing their wish: to have a child. They set off at the command of a neighboring witch to find four magical items which will grant them their wish. Along the way to obtain these objects, they meet many characters who in some way or another, by accident or on purpose, add to their effort. This motley cast is made up of characters from stories including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and The Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood.

These characters also have their own wishes within their stories: Cinderella, to escape from her evil stepmother and stepsisters and return to the ball; Jack, to obtain milk from his stubborn cow; and, Little Red Riding Hood, to get to her grandmother’s house. All of the characters in “Into the Woods” must decide how far they are willing to go to realize their wish, and if these efforts make them good or bad people. Sondheim also utilizes a narrator to help the audience understand the story and to spin a tale of friendship, bravery, and unlikely partnerships.

The play was announced in November, earlier than usual, as we would usually find out in December. This three-month rehearsal process gave us some extra time to explore the world of the play before we put it on its feet with staging. Our production of “Into the Woods” requires a more complex staging setup than we’ve had in the past, as well as a more dynamic use of the audience. There are more exits into the so-called “house,” the area where the audience sits, and I, for example, spend much less time backstage than I have in past years. Our stage this year has a few unique elements including a climbing rope and a swing, as well as a platform on stilts with a ladder.

This show also requires loads of work in terms of costumes and props. Everyone’s costume is unique and has to be made very skillfully to fit the needs of our show. These design elements help to create characters that have a power to whisk you away to a place where magic is performed by witches, giants live in the clouds, huge castles stand on hills, and all your favorite fairy tales come alive. During our production of “Into the Woods,” you will see regular students at MMS transformed into wolves, witches, and other fantasy creatures.

Trying on costumes and seeing the stage are things which I very much look forward to within this show process. When I try on a costume for the first time, I am at first a regular sixth grader at a regular school in a regular world; but, as soon as the costume is fully secured, I become someone different. I become The Baker in a magical land, spending my days wishing for something that has eluded me for years. I take magical journeys and meet new people, and slowly come to realize the importance of partnerships.

The feeling of an audience watching you—I know at least for me—is exhilarating. Acting and singing is one of my favorite things to do, and performing in front of an audience completes the picture for someone who practices the arts. Some challenges I face when playing The Baker in this show is the fact that he really relies on help from his wife more than anything else and is a very forgetful person. I frequently hold back the impulse to say, “But why couldn’t Sondheim have made The Baker just a tad less forgetful and reliant on others?” Then I say to myself, “Well, this is a chance for you to play a big role in a complex musical, and if you want to spin a successful acting career, you need to learn to accept the role the way it is.” I can relate to The Baker, though, in one way: We both argue with family members and friends, and frequently want to complete things on our own, sometimes refusing the help of others, and believing that we are the ones who can complete a task, without help. Sometimes, though, we give in and accept other people’s help, knowing that it is the best way to move forward.

It has been a pleasure to work on this show, and I am very excited to see it culminate in a two night performance. I believe that all of these meticulous, and maybe at times even tedious, preparations will have paid off in a show that dazzles your mind and awes your eyes.

Posted on February 26, 2019 in
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