Into The Woods: A Recap

This year, North High School players presented three performances of Into the Woods, an award-winning production that proved to be a success with the hard work and dedication of all cast and crew that could make that show possible. 

Junior players presented Into the Woods over a three-day course: Thursday, Nov. 18 and Friday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. All three performances took place in the North High auditorium. 

This production was directed by Andrew Wagner, theatre director/drama teacher, with music direction by Dr. Pamela Levy, orchestra direction by Joseph Rutkowski, and set design by Len Antinori.

Major cast roles of the musical were as follows:

Cinderella: Sara Rafaeil 

Little Red Riding Hood: Dylan Brenner 

Jack and the Beanstalk: Owen Flood

Rapunzel: Kajal Ramphul

Baker: Owen Roubeni

The Witch: Chantal Sadighpour

The cast and crew of “Into the Woods”. Credit: Lihie Kalfa.

Tickets for the musical costed $15 and had to be paid for in advance via check, or cash at the door. As a result of safety precautions in terms of COVID-19, seating was limited and ticket reservations/seating were sold according to a “first-come, first-serve” basis. 

Due to the school’s COVID-19 precautions, following a mask mandate was required. In addition, no food or drinks were permitted throughout the play.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, the musical still proved to be a success on account of the Juniors players’ extraordinary performance.

The play consisted of a modern twist on the beloved traditional fairy tales that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife.

Into the Woods opens with a montage of iconic fairy tale characters, including Cinderella, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood. 

Meanwhile, the story also follows a Baker and his wife lamenting on their lack of children. Soon, a witch reveals she is the cause of their infertility because they took it from her priceless garden. The Witch assigns them a series of tasks to do in “three days’ time” in order to break the curse. In the woods, they run into Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and a slew of other fairy tale characters on their way to meet the witches’ requests. Each narrative is changed and intertwined, and the majority of them eventually work toward the same goal, but only after they’ve realized the repercussions of their imagined “happily ever afters.”

Junior Chantal Sadighpour provides insight about her role and experience in being part of the musical. “My role in Into the Woods was the Witch. That role really suited me the most because I played it so well and I just loved performing on stage after being virtual for a year and a half,” she said. Sadighpour includes the effect of COVID-19 on her experience as well. “COVID-19 has affected the performance because all the cast members, including myself, had to wear masks to stay safe. I had to make sure the mask was sitting securely on my face so that it won’t fall off when I’m performing. Other than that, I really enjoyed this experience of performing in Into the Woods. Mr. Wagner is such an amazing director to work with on stage as well working with Dr. Levy, Mr. Rutkowski, and Mr. Antinori, our wonderful set designer.”

Sara Rafaeil, a senior who played Cinderella in the show, reflects on the performance and adds more to the challenges this year affiliated. “Overall I loved the performance. I think everyone worked really hard and was very passionate about the show, and I think our performance accurately reflects that. I’m really proud of everyone! COVID-19 definitely affected our show. By wearing masks, we had to work harder at acting to make sure that the audience could see our emotions, all while half of our faces were covered. We also had to be mindful of our diction and our articulation, because the masks kind of muffled us and made it hard to understand what we were saying sometimes,” she said.

Yet, regardless of these factors, the production still thrived with the hard work of all who were involved. One junior, Emely Renteria, who played the baker’s wife expresses her opinion about the performance. “I really think the production we put one was truly something special. It really captured the theme of family and what Junior Players represent,” said Renteria.

Another junior, Owen Roubeni, who plays the baker, provides more insight into the situation. “In times like these, people want moments to enjoy, to laugh, and to let go of anything that might be causing them stress. This show was that moment for many. The positive and passionate energy all of us put into this show is something not only the cast felt, but the people watching. Wearing masks during the show was a bummer, I’m not going to lie, but we did what we had to do and made the best of the situation,” said Roubeni.

The musical was certainly a great accomplishment for all that contributed. “There’s not much else to say other than I’m very happy with how it turned out! It was definitely very successful. Especially since we had new staff this year. It was definitely a bit of an adjustment for the students to have two brand new teachers this year, but I can confidently say that it all worked out in our favor. We have the best teachers out there, and the show could not have been possible without them,” Rafaeil said. 

The informational flyer, sharing ticket information along with dates and times. Credit: Lihie Kalfa.

In addition, Mr. Rutkowski, director of the pit orchestra’s accompaniment for the play, provides his reflection on the preparation and outcomes of the play. “I had my doubts that we could pull this off. Of all the musicals I have conducted, this was by far the most challenging because of the immense amount of underscoring and synchronized musical passages with actions on the stage (appearance of the witch, the spell sounds, many door knocks, dropping beans in someone’s hands, Cinderella taking her spills (falls) and the death of the cow.”

Adding to his statement, Mr. Rutkowski acknowledges the orchestra’s achievement through this year’s preparation. “All the members of the cast, stage and tech crew, and pit orchestra are to be commended for their dedication that led to a sterling performance of one of the most difficult Broadway musicals. We spent several hours of rehearsal in between all three performances…right up to 30 minutes before the final night. The last thing that I want to point out is that this was the first time in the 31 years I’ve been at North High that we had a pit orchestra entirely made up of students. Usually, we hire three or four professionals to play the brass and percussion books. This was exclusively students. And I am so proud of all of them.”

Overall, the Junior Players were able to present a successful production of the musical, Into the Woods, despite the unforeseen challenges of this year. Congratulations to all cast and crew for the hard work and dedication that allowed for a great performance.