‘Into the Woods’ puts on its final show

Heather Bing

Not all witches are bad, and not all giants are dumb. Fairy tales may be fun stories, or they may be lessons in social responsibility – this is the idea behind the musical “Into the Woods.”

The Kent State cast and crew of the musical ended its week-long production Sunday.

The musical follows several fairytale characters into the woods where they ultimately found out what happens when happily ever after ends.

This was the first musical performed at Kent State by composer Stephen Sondheim. Director and choreographer Terri Kent said the experience was very rewarding.

“The work was outstanding each night,” she said. “There were no train wrecks.”

Kent, associate professor of musical theatre, directs two to four shows a year. He said auditions took place in November, and rehearsals began a few days before spring semester resumed. The musical had a cast of about 70 members who put in four to five hours a day for six days a week up until the week before opening night.

This production had some of the hardest music in musical theatre, Kent said. Unlike other musicals, the melody in “Into the Woods” is not carried in the orchestra. The hardest part for cast members was following the rhythm because the time signature changes within the score.

“It’s hard to hear where each part fits in because each part is one more instrument completing the orchestra,” Kent said. “This is very difficult music, but the students have strong musical sense and great voices. The sound of the students is outstanding.”

Rick Coffey, freshman musical theatre performance major, said the music was one of the reasons he was excited to be in the cast.

“This is one of my favorites,” he said. “Steven Sondheim has a unique way of writing music that is very untraditional.”

Coffey was cast as both Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf and Cinderella’s prince. He said he is usually type-cast as the antagonist, and these were the parts he wanted when he auditioned.

This was Coffey’s second performance at Kent State, and he said the way the cast bonded together was one of his favorite parts about the production.

“We bonded a lot over the last month,” he said. “It’s not often that theatre people can sit around and talk in such a large group.”

Senior theatre studies major Hillary Billups agreed that the cast was fun to work with and that there were no real problems.

“We were all in the same boat,” she said. “We kept saying, ‘What did we get ourselves into?'”

Billups played Cinderella’s mother, Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and the voice of the giant. She said compared to other performances she has been in at Kent State, “Into the Woods” required a lot of outside practice because of the complicated music.

Although the cast had fun outside the performance, there was little time for goofing around during practice. Cast members had a lot of quick changes in costume and makeup.

“It was very nerve-racking,” Billups said. “This show is probably the hardest I’ve done. If you saw me on stage with my hand behind my back, I was probably counting the music on my fingers. What the orchestra was playing and what I was singing were totally different.”

Billups favorite part of the performance was the costumes. She said director Terri Kent did a modern take on the characters, and it was fun seeing everyone in their costumes for the first time.

The musical’s fantasy element was also different and rare in a musical – especially a college production. She hoped that despite the hard work of the cast, the production appeared effortless.

“I hope we made it look so easy that the audience doesn’t know how hard it was,” she said. “Then we’ll have done our jobs.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected]