“Into the Woods” almost on to the stage


Liz Thompson, Thomas Gunn and Shawn Wiebel

Once upon a time… they lived happily ever after. Fairy tales should always have a happy ending, right? Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods will try to answer that question as Russ Longtin directs what might be his last musical at JSC.

“Students have been badgering us about [performing Into the Woods] for a really long time,” said Longtin. However, Longtin always resisted due to his apprehension about the difficulty in trying to perform Sondheim’s work. This year though, he decided to make it happen.

Into the Woods blends various familiar fairytales with an original story of a childless Baker (Jonathan Howard) and his Wife (Kate Kendall), who try to reverse a curse on their family in order to have a child.

“It’s a very busy show. It’s into the woods. It’s in the cottages,” said Longtin. “There’s 22 people in the show. Managing that traffic is challenging…We have a really wide range of talents in the show, which is interesting to watch.”

“This [musical theater] degree has been in place for about five years, and we are just really starting to bear fruit,” said Longtin. The Associates of Art in technical theater is also a fairly new degree, about seven or eight years old. At first it was one or two students, but according to Longtin, nearly half of the theater majors also get this technical theater degree.

With music and lyrics by Sondheim, and the book written by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” opened on Broadway Nov. 5, 1987 in the Martin Beck Theater with Bernadette Peters as the Witch (to be played by at JSC by Taylor Cammer).

Associate Professor Bethany Plissey will be directing the pit band for “Into the Woods.” Michael Halloren is the voice coach and Abby Maurice is doing the choreography.

“People ask me if they should bother to audition because the theater majors are going to be there,” says Longtin. “Number one, I’ve given leading roles to people who are not in the department, so that’s not true. And then the explanation is that they [theater students] are being trained and they know it more, so their likelihood of getting cast is more. But the solution to that is to take a class or two and see what happens. Maybe you’ll actually like it. I’ve had three people switch from other programs to this in the past few weeks.”

Next year will be Longtin’s last. The search to fill his vacancy has not yet begun. For now, Longtin remains focused on one more, perhaps his last, show.

“I’m bringing my grandchildren to this play,” said Longtin. “It’s a new slant on all of the stories children know. Jack [Thomas Gunn] and the Beanstalk and Cinderella [Abby Maurice], these are the characters that are in situations that have nothing to do with their original story.”

Jack’s mother is played by Liz Thompson. Other actors in the musical include: Danielle Godjikian as Cinderella’s stepmother; Florinda and Lucinda as Cinderella’s stepsisters, Taylor Brown and Samantha Drouin respectively; and Jacob Crosslin as Cinderella’s father.

Chelsea Detollenaere wears “The Cape as Red as Blood” as Little Red and Sam Kilbride plays the dual role of Cinderella’s Mother and Granny. Also playing a dual role is Marcus Provost as the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince.

Rapunzel with the “Hair as Yellow as Gold” and Rapunzel’s Prince are played by Vanessa Cousins and Shani Stoddard. The Steward is Dylan Ballou and the “Cow as White as Milk” is Shawn Weibel.

Dakotah Senesac is the Narrator of this jumbled fairy tale that will be on the Dibden stage Wednesday, April 24 at 1:00 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday, April 25-27 at 7:00 p.m.