Magic is in the air in Newton, as the high school's performing arts department is preparing to present its version of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" Nov. 15, 16 and 17 in the NHS auditorium.

While a tall task at first glance, given the nature of the show, NHS drama teacher Jessica Heidrick saw an opportunity and took it — and the entire cast and crew has responded well to this year's production.

"At first I kind of thought I was crazy because doing Sondheim with high school is really ambitious, and it's musically a very challenging show," Heidrick said, "but the more I thought about shows for this year and the more I considered the talent that I have, and how they always rise to every challenge that I ever give them, I was like, 'Yes, this is going to be great. Stretch them; do Sondheim while you can.' "

The story of "Into the Woods" follows a baker and his wife who wish to have a child — but first must break the curse placed on them by a witch. They are not the only ones with wishes, though, as the play also folds in narratives from familiar fairy tales like "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Jack and the Beanstalk."

More than 50 students make up the cast and crew behind "Into the Woods" — all with varying familiarity with the source material. For Gretchen Otter (Baker's Wife), she admitted her love of "Into the Woods" and a schedule that finally allowed her some extra time led to her involvement with the play. Meanwhile, Michael Smith (Baker) noted he has been involved in the department all four years of high school and has come to take great pleasure in the opportunity afforded through being part of these productions.

"Acting is probably the funnest thing ever because you can just be someone else for however long you're on stage, so it's a blast," Smith said.

Smith admitted he thought there might be a possibility of staging "Into the Woods" when he was a freshman and said it is "surreal" to now actually be preparing for opening night.

Rehearsal began in September (after auditions shortly into the start of the school year in August), as Heidrick said she wanted to give actors time to practice their music — with most coming in with that part memorized.

Heidrick noted all the students have taken to the challenge of the show and are running with it, though she noted that will happen when you chose a production all involved are passionate about.

For the actors, part of the fulfillment comes from taking the words and notes in the book and making the character their own — something Otter attested to. But it's not just the actors who enjoy that character development, as stage manager Clara Rowe said that is one of the best parts about getting the production ready, as well.

"The thing that I really enjoy is you really do see everyone grow from first getting their scripts all the way up until when you're up in the light booth, calling cues and you get to watch the whole performance," Rowe said. "You really just see how far it's come and how together everything is at the end of it all. It's really beautiful."

"I am shocked and proud and amazed every day at rehearsal with what they have done with these characters," Heidrick said. "I cannot believe that it's a high school putting on this show and they are still this good. It just knocks my socks off."

Once the characters' wishes are fulfilled in "Into the Woods," that is truly just the start of the story, as Heidrick noted the play deals with themes grounded in reality — from loss to venturing down the wrong path — so there is something for everyone to relate to.

Audience members may be familiar with the motion picture adaption of the play, something the cast and crew were exposed to, but it was noted the stage production has some varied twists and other fun elements that the students encouraged checking out.

"My first sort of introduction to 'Into the Woods' was actually the movie, which I think brought it a lot of good exposure, but the movie really doesn't stay very true to the Broadway show," Rowe said. "So, if you have seen the movie I would definitely encourage you to come see this different version of the production."

"There's something for everyone. There's such a diverse set of characters and so many different people in it that everyone will find someone they connect with, everyone will find something that they enjoy or a part of it that they feel connected with," Otter said. "I think that's the best part of the show."

"Into the Woods" will be performed at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16, and 2 p.m. Nov. 17 at the NHS auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students.

 

Cast list

Narrator: Jacob Phillips

Cinderella: Madyson Groves

Jack: Eli Regier

Jack’s Mother: Cori Lyall

Baker: Michael Smith

Baker’s Wife: Gretchen Otter

Cinderella’s Stepmother: Easton Young

Florinda: Meya Green

Lucinda: Tabitha Buffalo

Cinderella’s Father: Jonah Schloneger

Little Red Ridinghood: Francie Robu

Witch: Mackenzie Glasmann

Cindrella’s Mother: Camila Flores

Mysterious Man: Isaac Mendoza

Wolf: Creed Ekerberg

Granny: Tryston Mitchell

Rapunzel: Grace Clayton

Rapunzel’s Prince: Rai Angolo

Cinderella’s Prince: Zeke Thompson

Steward: Lynn Morford

Giant: Sarah Fryover

Snow White: Gracie Hendrickson

Sleeping Beauty: Morgan Hiebert

Footmen: Caleb Garber, Matt Montano