By Olive Nugent
Between the dump of post-midterm assignments and winter rearing its ugly head, the first week of December was a long slog for many. For the over thirty students involved in this year’s school production of Into the Woods, it was particularly gruelling – but the resounding success of the three-night production was their sweet reward.
The production of Stephen Sondheim’s whimsical mashup of Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm fairy tales was the talk of Lisgar for weeks leading up to opening night, with students ducking frantically in and out of class for rehearsals in the final days.
I saw the show on its second night, which, I’m told, was the best of the three performances; cast and crew had had Thursday to get into the swing of things and were still bursting with energy, which friends involved tell me was waning a bit by Saturday. Into the Woods is a remarkably long musical – the show was nearly 3 hours from start to finish, including the intermission – so I’m not surprised they were beginning to feel their first two performances by Saturday. However, it’s a testament to the production that the plot never felt drawn out.
There was apparently some confusion in the audience as to when the show was actually meant to end – a number of people left at the intermission thinking it was the end of the show because, in spite of the narrator’s shout of “to be continued!” the end of the first act had a kind of fairytale closure to it that seemed appropriate and final. However, those who left early did, at least, leave on a high note; without spoiling anything, I can say that Act 2 is significantly less cheerful than the first.
Some of the show’s best comedic moments sprung from its own self-awareness and acknowledgement that they were, in fact, on stage; I’m thinking of the comparison of a yellow corn-cob to clearly not yellow lock of hair and the feeding of Milky White the cow through a door on her side. These weren’t original gags from the musical, but were invented just for this production and doubled as clever use of imperfect props.
Though the whole cast put in a very solid performance, there are a few who I think deserve particular recognition. Aliya Frendo gave a remarkable performance as the baker’s wife with pretty extraordinary vocals and Katriona Lane was extremely convincing as Jack’s perpetually harried mother. And kudos to Joshua Lane for turning up to a trivia tournament at Ottawa U on Saturday morning after having performed two nights in a row with another to come.
So too should be commended the tireless work of supervising teachers, the Lisgar student orchestra, and everyone involved in the production and set design.
I talked to Frank Boothroyd, a percussionist with the Lisgar student orchestra, who commented:
I thought that preparing for the musical was an enjoyable experience. Practices went fairly well, but when we rehearsed with the cast things kind of fell apart. But in the week before the show, there were practices almost every night after school which helped a lot to put everything together. I didn’t get much done that week, but the musical improved a lot. After the dress rehearsal, I was confident that performances would go well, and I’m happy with how they went.
When I asked Emma Kirke, stage manager, for her thoughts on the production, she started with a quote by Sondheim himself:
“Though it’s fearful, though it’s deep and dark and though may lose the path”, you must not give up until you complete the task. This endeavour was successful with the help of incredibly supportive teachers without whom we wouldn’t have been able to bring our audience into the woods. ♦