We all remember the classic fairy-tale stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. But what would happen if their stories were combined?
"Into the Woods," this year's Millburn High School fall musical, unites these stories with the award-winning music of Stephen Sondheim to create an engaging and exciting musical production.
The Millburn High School Limelight Players will present this acclaimed musical on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the MHS auditorium. Tickets are $10 if you call 973-564-7130, extension 455, in advance, and they are $12 at the door. Seats are reserved, so call in with your order.
In the musical, the four fairy tales are tied together with an original story involving a baker and his wife on a quest to reverse a witch's spell and have a child.
The fairy tale characters begin their adventures seeking their "happily ever after"—Cinderella (senior Lauren Mandel) to attend the King's festival and wed the prince, Jack (sophomore Max Sauberman) to climb the beanstalk and find the giants, Little Red (senior Kathryn Raskin) to visit her grandmother and Rapunzel (junior Chandler Blasini) to escape her tower and find her prince.
In order to reverse a curse placed by an old witch (junior Julia Silverstein), the baker (senior Jeremy Bergman) and his wife (senior Martha Meguerian) need to go into the woods and gather the magical ingredients: Cinderella's golden slipper, Jack's white cow, Little Red's cape and Rapunzel's blonde hair.
Once the characters set on their adventures and go into the woods, however, they must make important decisions and deal with the consequences of their actions. Though it may appear they achieve their wishes and are happy, what really happens after "happily ever after"? It turns out there's a lot more to these classic fairy-tales than we all know.
The musical, which takes a darker turn in the second act, attempts to uncover the humanity of fairy tales and teaches important lessons about love, loss, fate and the power of storytelling.
The cast includes seniors Jeremy Bergman (Baker), Joey Bremberg (Wolf & Cinderella's Prince), Lauren Mandel (Cinderella), Martha Meguerian (Baker's Wife), Kathryn Raskin (Little Red), Jasia Ries (Jack's Mother), Melissa Rosenberg (Cinderella's Stepmother) and Sam Schenerman (Narrator & Mysterious Man); juniors Chandler Blasini (Rapunzel), Erin Hernon (Florinda), Rebecca Okrent (Sleeping Beauty), Julia Silverstein (Witch) and David Wasserman (Rapunzel's Prince); sophomores Remy Novich (Cinderella's Mother), Lauren Rosenfield (Townswoman), Max Sauberman (Jack) and Rebecca Van Voorhees (Lucinda); and freshmen Caroline Casey (Granny), Matthew Jentis (Steward), Eleanor Konrad (Giant), Cynthia Mustafa (Townswoman), Aanchal Sahay (Snow White), Joe Schwartz (Milky-White) and Andrew Singer (Cinderella's Father).
Auditions were held on the first day of school in September, and the entire cast has been diligently rehearsing and working hard with the directors each day ever since.
The musical would be nothing without its production staff, which include director Paul Weinstein, musical director Rodrigo Vega, choreographer Arvin Arjona, orchestra conductor Karen Conrad, stage crew advisor Matt Spatz, set designer Roger Keller and producer Erin Smith.
Vega's favorite part as musical director is working with the students, and "seeing how they develop with their character. I very much enjoy encouraging the students to draw out as much meaning and musicality out of every piece they perform."
Similarly, Weinstein, who teaches high school English in Kenilworth and has directed more than 25 shows, enjoys working with the students creatively. "It is a much different experience to work with students on something that they all care about and are excited to be a part of than to teach students in a class that they have to take," he said. "It allows for a much more relaxed atmosphere where the students and I can open up more and simply enjoy the experience."
In addition to the cast, the stage crew has been doing a great job with their advisors to turn the stage into a convincing forest, featuring Rapunzel's tower, a life-sized tree and houses for Jack, Cinderella, and the baker and his wife. They also have created the hundreds of props, special effects, and lights and sound cues that will make the musical impressive.
Weinstein acknowledges the show has "an amazing crew, especially stage manager, Rachel Okrent. She is a tireless worker who goes well above and beyond what anyone would expect. Rachel is a huge reason why this show will be successful."
Smith, who has produced the two previous Limelight musicals, also notes the "crew has been so efficient in preparing the set, the lights, the sound, and without them, this show would not be possible."
And what is a musical without great music? The pit orchestra, composed entirely of MHS music students, is also talented and hard-working, which is especially important with this show, notorious for its difficult musical score. Smith thinks "despite the difficulty of the music, the orchestra is doing their best with the complexities that is Sondheim."
Back in May, the directors gathered to select this year's musical. Weinstein said, "After my first show in the district last year, I had a good idea about the returning cast and talent level that would be available. We all decided that we had the necessary talent to put on this incredibly challenging show. What I love about "Into the Woods" is how different it is, both in music and dramatic construction. The weaving together of fairy tales is an ingenious idea, but what is even more impressive is the way that relevant messages about realizing what is important in life and what the effects of our decisions and actions are come forth from the dialogue and songs. "Into the Woods" is simply one of my favorite shows, and I was excited to do it with the cast."
Vega adds, "This musical has a lot to say about life and struggle. On the surface, the musical may seem really dark, particularly the second act. But I think the most important message is the idea of hope."
Both Vega and Smith agree their favorite scene in the musical comes at the end, when the characters remind each other "no one is alone."
According to Arjona, "Into the Woods" is a great choice for this year's musical because "there are a lot of characters for a big ensemble with opportunities for multiple lines for all these characters."
Despite the simultaneous opening of the seventh "Harry Potter" movie, the cast of "Into the Woods" is looking forward to successful performances and large crowds, as this show will be enjoyed by all audiences: adults and children alike.
"My expectations for opening night are simply to have the cast continue to do what they have been doing for two months: show their incredible talent as they continue to do a great job performing the material," Weinstein said.
Regarding the talent, Vega has been very impressed in his first year as director of choruses at Millburn High School. "There are very few high school programs, or even regional theaters, that would attempt a musical of this depth and complexity, both in meaning and difficulty," he said. "This show is a huge undertaking and the cast, crew and pit have really responded to the challenge."
Smith, who is proud of everyone that has been working so hard to make the musical possible, said the show is "a lot of work, but is so worth it in the end. This year's experience has been really special, as the cast has formed a little family, just as the characters in 'Into the Woods' do."
Being in the cast of this musical has been an outstanding experience. The entire cast has formed a great bond. relying and depending upon each other to make the show truly fantastic. We look forward to sharing what has become our life over the past three months with the entire Millburn-Short Hills community.