Muhlenberg’s journey “Into the Woods”

Marin Diddams '21 as Cinderella dances with her prince, Tommy Gedrich '21, during a rehearsal of "Into the Woods"

Don’t delay or be misled, Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance is proud to present Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3 in Empie Theatre at the Baker Center for the Arts. Into the Woods tells the story of the Baker and his wife and their wish to have a child. Along the way, they meet our other favorite fairytale characters, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and several others. As each character travels into the woods to gain their wishes, they face the consequences of what the wishes truly entail. Directed by Beth Schachter, choreographed by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musically directed by Ed Bara, Into the Woods will be a treat for all who attend.

Renowned for its meaningful messages, Into the Woods is loved by all of the cast and crew members. In order to provide more students opportunities, some of the roles were double cast. The Baker, Jack, the step-sisters and the giantess were all double-cast roles. This creates two casts, differentiated by their names “Woods” and “Sondheim.” Hanah Gershkowitz ‘20, who portrays the Stepmother, and Albert Garrido ‘21, who plays the Baker in the Sondheim cast (Caden Fraser ‘20 portrays him in the Woods cast), both found special connections within the show.

“It has a lot of sentimental value because I’m a senior and Sondheim shows hold such meaning and value,” said Gershkowitz. “I think it’s closer to a more thought-provoking musical. I was in the musical Sunday in the Park with George my sophomore year, and just in comparison to this process, there is much more thinking and [learning] from the material…you learn that the journey is the story, and the story is continuous. That holds a lot of value for someone who is leaving campus in a semester and a half.”

“You listen to the music and it resonates so well with you, and I think there are a lot of life lessons that people will like,” Garrido said. “I think it’s just the whole idea of the woods, and how the woods are like life. Life happens. The song I sing, ‘No More,’ is about [how] to get to a great spot, you have to endure a hard time.”

A Tony-Award winning score, Into the Woods is a musical masterpiece. Jack Armstrong ‘22, who plays the role of Jack in the Woods cast (Sean Kenny ’20 plays Jack in the Sondheim cast), is entranced by it.

“Still, when I’m listening to this music, I get giddy when there’s a key change or something,” said Armstrong. “It’s so masterful.”

The cast has been pouring themselves into the rehearsals. They began practicing in the Rehearsal House until they made the move into Empie Theatre this past week. Usually, they practice from 7-11 p.m. Monday through Friday with an additional rehearsal on Saturday, but due to the show being on the horizon, the rehearsal rate has increased. 

At rehearsal on Friday, Oct. 18, every detail was being put to the test. If a scene, light or gesture did not cast the effect that was meant to be portrayed, it was reworked until it was perfected. This meticulous process is what turns a show from good to great. 

Each scene has different lighting cues, which require different brightness levels, color and gobos, or sheets placed in front of lights to change their effects. Specifically, in this show, gobos are used to make the stage appear as though the sun is peeking through the trees of the woods. 

The wonderful set designs enhance the experience of the members of the audience. Not only is there a backdrop of the beautifully-mysterious woods that changes color with the mood of the scene, but there are also sets of moving trees. Of course, the characters are not going to stay in one spot in the woods, so the trees move to change the scenery. 

Although the character of the Wolf was not in his full garb at this rehearsal, his ears, tail and claws truly brought the character alive. Before getting into character, as he was assuming his position on stage, Connor McCully ‘22 as the Wolf jokingly made movements that unintentionally displayed the magnificence of the set piece and costume design. With a flash of his claws, the Wolf surely established himself as a character to watch carefully during the production.

The cast and crew have developed an amazing bond throughout the rehearsal process as well. Before the rehearsal began, they chatted excitedly amongst each other about their current similar interests, like the Netflix original show The Politician. However, some of the actors get to work together more closely, namely those who are double-cast with another student.

“It’s really interesting because you have to work with your double so closely,” said AnnieRose DiMurro ‘22, who plays Lucinda, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. “You’re getting new ways to interact with people on stage and new influences from your double, so just working from that perspective is really interesting because you get to work with [not only] your cast, but the extended cast as well,” she continued.

Each of the actors have different ways of approaching their roles due to each character’s uniqueness. Garrido said he obviously does not want a child right now like the Baker does, being only 21; however, he identifies with having a wish, which is something everyone can relate to. The process was a bit different for DiMurro.

 “To get into character, throughout the rehearsal process I was working on it, but when they gave us our costumes, it really helped…This character is larger than life, but you could see her walking down into a club, which just makes it more realistic.” says DiMurro about her character, Lucinda. Take a journey into the woods with our amazingly talented cast starting this Friday, Oct. 25 through Nov. 3. Tickets are on sale now at muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at (484)-644-3333.

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