Geneseo’s department of music put on an exciting production of “Into the Woods” for the community from April 6–Sunday April 10. James Lapine wrote the musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, who is known for his other Broadway hits “West Side Story” and “Sweeney Todd.” Directed by Scott Scaffidi, the musical is essentially a twist on all our favorite fairy tales: “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Bean Stalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Rapunzel.” Here, all of their stories are woven together, with the crucial thread being the story of two new characters: the Baker and his wife. These two characters are sent into the woods by their neighbor—a witch—in search of four magical items, for which the witch will grant the couple the gift of a baby in return.
This was the perfect time for Geneseo to perform “Into the Woods,” given its recent success as a blockbuster movie. The movie—which was released in 2014 and starred the likes of Meryl Streep, late night host James Corden and Chris Pine—was nominated for three Oscars and three Golden Globes.
With a full ensemble cast, frontrunners were musical theater major freshman Sarah Maphey as Cinderella, mathematics education major junior Ben Reiner as Jack, English education major junior Ben Ranalli as the Baker, musical theater major senior Alexandra Imbrosci as the Baker’s Wife and communication and musical theater double major sophomore Sophie Yeomans as the Witch.
The set design of the production was very innovative, comprised of three large storybooks—one for each of the three main tales featured in the story—which then opened up to reveal three different sets. At the end of the production, the books were closed again, this time with the titles of the tales written on the front covers: “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and a new addition to the tales we already know and love, “The Bakers.”
Sondheim is known in the Broadway world for the “startling complexity” and “witty conversational” quality of his lyrics. Most of the cast members did very well with these doubtlessly hard-to-master lyrics, as well as keeping up with the humor of the production. Junior Jordan Bachmann and freshman Brian Sousis—who played Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince respectively—got the audience laughing with their rendition of “Agony,” the famously overdramatic song about all the trials of being a ridiculously handsome prince.
Other actors excelled at bringing out the emotion in a musical that is largely humorous. Themes of infertility, abandonment and death are driving themes here, and Ranalli—in his role as the Baker—reminded us of that through touching scenes with his long-lost father and realization of single fatherhood.
One criticism that audience members had was the actors’ tendency to start speaking their lines before applause had died down, resulting in the audience being unable to hear some of the dialogue.
That being said, there were a lot of great performances by the student actors and actresses. Maphey shined in her role as Cinderella, who is on the run from her Prince Charming. Maphey played Cinderella’s casual, down-to-earth personality expertly, especially in her performance of “A Very Nice Prince,” which she sang with Imbrosci. Imbrosci, too, commanded the stage with her determination that the quest for the magical objects was not just a job for a man.
Scaffidi explained that he is drawn to “Into the Woods” because it reminds him that he is human. “There are days when I am Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, a witch, a wolf, Cinderella or even one of her stepsisters. Most days, I’m a combination of them all,” he said. “We all have our own stories to tell and it’s in the sharing of these stories—these experiences, this interconnection—we discover that we are not alone.”
Through watching his production of “Into the Woods,” this message was heard loud and clear.
Correction: The Witch was played by sophomore Sophie Yeomans