Into the theatre: Fine arts department unites to create musical production

The curtain rises as all the hours of work, tears, and nerves culminate in this single moment. The Narrator begins the story: “Once upon a time in a far off kingdom”, and the stage comes to life transporting the audience into the fairy tale world. Fine arts students involved with choir, band, and theatre labored for months creating their own version of the Tony Award-winning musical Into the Woods.

The fine arts teachers were careful in their selection of the musical, taking student talent into account in hopes of showcasing what the students are capable of producing.

“Into the Woods is a unique musical,” choir director Alex Medlock said. “There are not a lot of musicals that feature females, but Into the Woods does that and has a lot of strong female roles. We’ve got a lot of strong female actresses, so that was the major contributing factor to picking Into the Woods.”

With the film release of Into the Woods gaining popularity, producing the show posed creative difficulties, but also allowed the fine arts department to put their own spin on the popular show.

“It was a lot of fun,” Medlock said. “A lot of the kids saw the movie that came out a year ago, so there was a connection there. The story itself is cool in how they weave together all of these different characters and they all meet in the woods. It has a clever script and has eerie, spooky music that’s fun to play and sing.”

With the choice of Into the Woods, cast members were able to experience new roles and develop into their characters onstage that challenged them in new ways.

“My sophomore year I was in In the Heights, and comparatively this musical was a lot harder,” senior Rebecah Flores said. “The role was a lot more rigorous and I feel like I had to put forth a lot more effort to learn my lines the songs. I feel like the character I played in Into the Woods, the Witch, as opposed to Abuela Claudia in In the Heights was a lot more dynamic.”

While some cast members experienced new roles for the first time in this musical, other members got the chance to play a role they have coveted for years.

“The Baker has always been a role I’ve wanted to play,” senior Caleb Duane said. “My older brother flew down from New York to see me perform and the Baker has always been one of his dream roles.”

Playing a dream role isn’t the only positive of being a part of something like the musical as it allowed cast members to make new memories and friendships.

“It’s overwhelming, but it’s rewarding,” Caleb said. “I think the coolest part about performing in the school musical is the relationships you make with the cast and you feel like you’re a family.”

Less seasoned actors found the same kind of connection which helped them through the difficulties that came with producing something so dynamic. Sophomore Kayla Callen played Cinderella and though she is in choir, not theater, she enjoyed her role.

“I had never done anything like the musical before,” Kayla said. “It was the most incredible experience in high school I’ve had so far. We built really strong relationships, and I feel like we could apply everything happening in our lives to the show and vice versa.”

Whether students were members of the choir, the stage crew, or the orchestra, they experienced the impact of working on something bigger than themselves..

“Being able to see it all come together, the entire process was rewarding,” junior clarinet player Martin Hay said. “Being a part of the musical at every stage makes performances so much more special, because you see the process and then you get to show the final product to the world.”

Even though the onstage performance of the cast members is important for the making of the show, there is equal importance and learning experience found in stage managing.

“I had to interact with the adults more,” senior stage manager Ale Reyes said. “I had to keep up with everybody’s attendance and what scenes needed to be blocked. It’s a lot less of going onstage and trying new things, but more of watching, making notes and observing.”

The onstage cast members aren’t the only ones who feel the pressure of opening night. The stage managers and crew carry the show by working out all the details like blocking, lighting, and cues.

“I had to make sure that everything was running smoothly and that we were on schedule,” Ale said. “I also had to make sure that everyone was happy because it was also my responsibility: to make sure that nobody was freaking out.”

From the wings, members of the show have been able to see the ways others have grown from their experiences with the show.

“I enjoyed just watching everybody grow,” Ale said. “How individuals started in the beginning and some people who, as actors, were babies, and then they kind of blossomed into having so much fun onstage and doing great work. Seeing that growth was really fun.”

Not only were some of the cast members experiencing something new, but some of the directors were learning new things as well.

“It was bigger than anything I had ever done,” theatre teacher Jacob Justice said. “At times it felt bigger than what we realized, but we decided to go for it and showcase the talent we have.”

While the final product can be rewarding, the collaborative effort and the improvement and growth of students along the way is what Justice believes makes the show special.

“At the heart of it, I don’t really like to focus on the big production,” Justice said. “I like to focus on the performer, and teaching them to be an artist and create. We had 40 different artists between the cast, the chorus, and the crew, all creating and working hard to create this show.”

Whether they are seasoned performers or new to the stage, Justice saw how all of the cast members showcased their talent and shined onstage.

“If I look back and see the different performers like Andres Reyna as the Mystery Man and how big he became and Atiana Davis as Baker’s Wife, they’ve just nailed comedic timing,” Justice said. “Luke Wallis and Witt Herman, just fed off of each other so well, but even seasoned performers like Caleb and Rebecah really applied themselves because it’s a hard musical and they made it look easy.”

Because of its rigor and collective effort, members of the musical production show growth and improvement both onstage and off.

“There’s something about the musicals that forces you out of your comfort zone,” Medlock said. “It causes kids to grow over a short period of time and do things they didn’t think they could do. They’re a part of this process that is so much bigger than one person, and I think that’s what attracts kids to musicals.”

Though the final production is a rewarding experience for all involved, it is the friendships and learning experiences gained along the way stay with the members for the rest of their lives.

“We started with this impossible task and then somehow, magically, it happens and gets put together,” Medlock said. “Kids are doing things they never thought was even possible, so the relationships that are built during musical and the growth that is seen as performers is really what it’s all about.”