Central theatre ensemble’s “Into the Woods” reminds us of the importance of community

Theatre and music departments collaborate with live orchestra

Zileni Milupi, Senior Reporter

James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s popular adaptation of the classic Grim Brothers fairy tales and two-time Tony Award-winning musical, “Into the Woods,” finally took the CWU stage on May 12 after being postponed due to COVID-19. Produced by the theatre department in collaboration with the music department, the production’s first show was in McConnell Hall and will run for a total of seven shows in spring quarter on May 12 and 13 and May 18 to 21. 

According to Associate Professor in Theatre Arts and director of the show Dr. Emily Rollie, one of the themes of the plays this season was “old stories made anew.” Rollie further explained this quarter was great timing for “Into the Woods” which is a combination and adaptation of stories.  

“I think the play is about, at its core, the way that our actions impact other people’s actions,” Rollie said. “And the way that we have to come together as a community to get our wish.”

According to Rollie, the importance of community is a big theme in the play and how we can apply that to society post-pandemic. 

“As we’re trying to reinvent what life is now with the legacy and the memories of COVID and loss, how do we come back together as a community,” Rollie said. “I think what we did discover in that time was how important it is to look out for the greater good of people…So I think right now, this particular story is important.” 

The production features a live orchestra with students of the music department. Musical director of the theatre arts department, Callum Morris explained that this was the second collaboration in a row after the spring awakening musical in fall quarter of last year.   

“It’s a good experience for the students to be able to both as the musicians and as the actors to kind of have this experience of working with a live orchestra,” Morris said. “It’s also a very different feel in the room, you’ll feel the energy of the orchestra in a different way than you would if it was just a recording.”

With so many iterations of the musical, Rollie explained that it’s possible to discover something new with each cast. 

“I think the way that a lot of the actors have come to their characters, they’re offering things that might not be the not the same as other iterations,” Rollie said. “But I think what the actors have done so well is to think about how their embodiment of the character stems from their creative process.”

In interviews with The Observer, members of the cast discussed their interpretations of their characters and how they mentally prepared for their respective roles.

Theatre performance senior Marcus Wolf plays the lead role of the baker. In the play, a witch casts a spell on the Baker and his wife that prevents them from having a child. 

Wolf explained that he tapped into attributes of his own father to play the baker. He further explained that he looks up to his father and aspires to be him, in the same way, the baker aspires to be a father. 

According to Wolf, the baker is a flawed character who learns from his mistakes and in that way, can be relatable to the audience.

“Something that I would love people to know is just learning how to make mistakes and learning from them,” Wolf said. “I think what we need to do as people is learn how to fail and learn how to pick yourself up from it.”

Musical theatre junior Yuka Kawai said she had to acknowledge that her character Cinderella isn’t a princess, even though she is generally considered one. 

“She [Cinderella] is a girl who just wants to party, especially in the iteration of ‘Into the Woods,’” Kawai said. “She’s just a girl who wants to do something new and experience something new.”

Kawai and Rollie both shared similar thoughts on the metaphorical aspect of ‘the woods.’ Rollie explained that ‘the woods’ is a place of possibility. 

“It’s also a place that within possibility, there’s a little bit of darkness and danger, but that allows us to grow,” Rollie said. “So, thinking about those moments in the woods as moments of opportunities for learning, but then how do we take that back into our community?”

Kawai said one lesson she would like audiences to take away from the musical is to love their community and trust the people in it. 

“There are times when you have to go through hardships,” Kawai said. “But there will be people who can support you and you won’t be going into the woods alone.”

Kawai also shared what she would want audiences to learn from her character. 

“Go and try out that new thing that you’ve always wanted to do, but you were too afraid to do because it might steer you in a really surprising direction,” Kawai said. “It might be good, it might be bad, but it’s something you’ve tried.”

Musical theatre senior Annabelle Brasch who plays the witch, described her character as somewhat of a combination of Maleficent and the evil queen from Snow White. 

“She is a mixture of these characters,” Brasch said. “Somehow you have to make her more complicated and more of a human being than those evil villains.”

Brasch said she drew bits of inspiration from Bernadette Peters and Meryl Streep, who played the witch in the original production and 2014 movie adaptation respectively. 

Brasch explained that she has learned a lot through the challenges she faced in the role, as it is vocally demanding.  

“I’ve never had the opportunity to do something in this realm yet,” Brasch said. “So it’s very fun to be able to do it and realize that it’s challenging but I can do it.”

Audience Perspectives

Audience members who attended the opening night expressed their satisfaction with the show.

“This is the first time I think I’ve seen a live orchestra in a show,” Second year computer science major Elijah Johnson said. “It definitely allows for better timing as opposed to tracks, and it sounded fantastic.”

Second-year art major Makenna Catron shared her thoughts on the cast.

“I think the cast is wonderful and amazing,” Catron said. “I think everyone was cast perfectly.”