Students tackle dark, difficult musical

January 31, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Movie fans who have seen Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" in theaters have an indication as to how difficult a Stephen Sondheim musical can be for the singers.

They can check out another example starting tonight as Shepherd University's Department of Music presents Sondheim's "Into the Woods." The musical won three Tonys in 1988, including best score, and two more Tonys in 2002, including best musical revival.

"It's one of my favorites," said Erik Reid Jones, musical director for Shepherd's production.

"Into the Woods" integrates the story of a baker and his wife, who try to reverse a curse preventing them from having a child, with familiar fairy-tale characters such as Cinderella, Jack (the guy who climbed a beanstalk and outwitted a giant), Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel.

The musical also deals with the consequences of achieving a dream. For instance, does marrying a prince really lead to a happy and fulfilling life?


"Children can enjoy it and adults can enjoy it," said Shepherd junior Sarah Eberle, who portrays the baker's wife. "Kids will like it because they will recognize the fairy-tale characters." Looking at it on a deeper level, there are many life messages and lessons, she said.

Like all of Sondheim's scores, "Into the Woods" can be difficult to sing, Jones said. The music is easy to listen to, but advanced; so much so that rehearsals began in October.

"The students are doing wonderfully ... They know this is going to be the best show that we've ever put on," Jones said.

The lyrics themselves aren't hard, but the rhythms are difficult, said Brett Smith, 21, who portrays Jack's mother and has a solo within "Jack, Jack, Jack."

"The music is fast most of the time and trying to get everything and everyone together at the same time is not the easiest thing in the world," said Smith, who portrayed Snow White in a community theater production of "Into the Woods."

Shepherd freshman David Miranda, who plays the baker, sang Sondheim's "Finishing the Hat" from "Sunday in the Park with George" during a high school Broadway cabaret showcase.

"It's ... very hard and it takes a lot of time and effort and work to be able to pull off a Sondheim song," Miranda said. But when you get it right, he said, it's beautiful.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Into the Woods," a Stephen Sondheim musical presented by Shepherd University Department of Music

WHEN: Opens tonight at 8; continues at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 9; and 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 3 and 10.

WHERE: Frank Arts Center Theater, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va.

COST: $15; $10, faculty, staff and seniors; $5, students 18 and younger; free for Shepherd students and Friends of Music MAC cardholders.

MORE: For reservations, call 304-876-5555. For more information, go to The show is more than two hours long.

Cast list for 'Into the Woods'

Director ... Mark McCoy

Musical director ... Erik Reid Jones

Technical director ... Patrick Wallace

Stage manager ... Laura Dixon


Florinda ... Meghan Broderick

Lucinda ... Jessica Bryant

Stepmother ... Liz Carter

Grandmother ... Laura Cole

Rapunzel ... Christina Crawford

Jack ... Brian Dawley

Giant ... Laura Dixon

Baker's wife ... Sarah Eberle

Cinderella ... Lawren Hill

Rapunzel's prince ... Matthew Lincoln

Narrator/Mysterious man ... Evan MacKenzie

Cinderella's father ... Jeff Martin

Baker ... David Miranda

Witch ... Joanna Moomaw

Snow White ... Bonnie Myers

Cinderella's mother ... Alicia Nunez

Steward ... Matthew Point

Cinderella's prince ... Matt Sims

Jack's mother ... Brett Smith

Sleeping Beauty ... Kaitlyn Whetzel

Little Red Riding Hood ... Taryn Wood

Wolf ... Joel Ziler

The Herald-Mail Articles