Arts & Entertainment

J.E.B. Stuart Drama Tackles Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’

“No One Is Alone,” “It Takes Two,” and “Children Will Listen” … kind of sounds like the ending morals of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Well, in a way, it is! These are the titles of songs from “Into the Woods,” performed by the J.E.B. Stuart High School Arts Department.

With music by Stephen Sondheim and a script by James Lapine, the production took the Broadway stage by storm after its first performance at the Martin Beck Theatre in November 1987. Big names such as Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason portrayed some of the lead roles, including the Baker’s Wife, which Gleason won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for playing. The play follows many classic fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood, and is then all brought together by the original story of the Baker and his wife, who are desperately trying to start a family but are cursed by the Witch who lives next door. While Act 1 diligently follows the standard storyline of each fairy tale as the central characters have their dreams come true, Act 2 takes a slightly different spin on each tale, focusing on the darker side of each happily ever after, opening with the signature line “Once Upon a Time… later!”

Even with the difficult music of Sondheim under their belts, the cast of J.E.B. Stuart’s production tackled it with a valiant effort, filling the auditorium with beautiful notes and tone. The energy never fell flat as the relatively small cast sang about princes or ran from the giant.

Mariana Barbosa (the Baker’s Wife) amazed the audience with her powerful performance, filled with accurate emotion, acing melodies, and believable chemistry with her husband the Baker, played by Sam Khalaji. Hillary Leersnyder (Cinderella) helped carry the show with her gorgeous voice and full portrayal of the klutzy princess.

Osama Ashour (the Narrator) and Lenny Mendez (Jack’s Mother) kept the audience laughing with their energy and hilarity, and the ensemble of the stepsisters (Bridget Hull and Julia Saltzgiver) stole the show a few times with their enjoyable one-liners and stage business together. Although some cast members didn’t quite master Sondheim’s difficult music, the whole ensemble came together to pull off a great show.

The costumes for this production were extraordinary, the attention to detail and the color schemes unique to each character creating a wonderful picture on the stage. Though there were a few microphone problems, they were easily forgotten through the beautiful singing, the remarkable costuming, and the energy emanating from the stage.

J.E.B. Stuart High School’s production of Into the Woods was fun, beautiful and energetic. It’s definitely worth going into the woods to see… and be home before dark!

Maggie Hardy is a student at Hayfield Secondary School and a member of Cappies, the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre and Journalism.

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