‘Into the Woods’ casts an enchanting spell on audiences

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Sophie Roth-Knigin

Little Red Riding Hood (Alexis Dixon) picks flowers for her grandmother during Act 1, Scene 1 of the Feb. 9 "Into The Woods" performance.

A staple of many American high schools is their drama department, and Western is no exception. On Feb. 8-10, Western’s drama troupe 4259 put on their performance of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical “Into The Woods.” From the set to the powerful performances by each actor, the show definitely deserves the raving Cappies reviews and student praise.

“Into The Woods” is a musical that intertwines fairy tale characters, like Cinderella (Jessica Restrepo), Rapunzel (Emma Wasserman) and Little Red Riding Hood (Alexis Dixon) with the lives of a simple baker (Aidan Havens) and his wife (Ishani Kamalani). The story, told by a nameless narrator (Santiago Zornosa), follows a witch (Nicole Ehrlich) who casts a spell on the baker. The witch then sends him to collect ingredients for a potion to reverse the spell on the baker, as well as on herself. Along the way, the baker and his wife cross paths with classic fairy tale characters and madness ensues.

The performances of both minor and major characters  were stunning. Even small characters like Cinderella’s stepmother (Ashley Shrewsbury) and Milky White the cow (Julia Pihokken) illuminated the stage with their spunk and genius characterization. Many even say that Pihokken stole the show with her wordless role.

Another unique aspect of the show was the human trees that acted as the show’s ensemble (Zoë Petit, Arianna Fuller, Amelia Bryant, GianMarco Viscariello, Carolyn Torres, Angelina Ramirez, and Michael Carrillos). The ensemble created a living forest, with choreography that emphasized key scenes of the show. Another part of the ensemble was the birds played by students (Gabby Kouras, Yeriel Moya, Jane Dubelier and Daniel Guerrieri). The birds play a vital role, assisting Cinderella as she wanders about the woods throughout the show.

The performances of the main characters cannot be overlooked. Dixon gave an incredible performance as Little Red, conveying the childlike innocence of the character, especially in her solo song “I Know Things Now.” Brant Boehm also offered a dramatic performance as Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, depicting the lighthearted attitude of being a carefree child, but making the complicated change to a more mature and somber outlook after the death of his mother. He also performed one of the show’s most famous songs, “Giants in the Sky.” Restrepo gave a very convincing performance as Cinderella, making the turmoil of the character seem unbelievably realistic during the song “On the Steps of the Palace.” Ehrlich provided a brilliant depiction of the witch, creating both a comedic and heartbreaking side of the character. Along with all of these talented performers, the dynamic duo of Havens and Kamalani, referred to in the show as the Baker and the Baker’s Wife, packed their performances with not only chemistry but also melodious vocals.  

The incredible performance also lent itself to glowing Cappies reviews.

The cast as a whole mined the script for all its comedic gold,” student reviewer Madeline Finkelman of North Broward Preparatory School said.

“Western High School’s heartwarming and enchanting production of “Into the Woods” inspires us all to make wishes, take journeys, and explore paths we never dared to before,” student reviewer Sofie Whitney of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said.

With this production, troupe 4259 was able to execute another stellar performance. The thespians work incredibly well as a unit and tell a convincing, captivating and complicated story in a way that is easy for an audience member to follow. This presentation was yet another indication of the hard work and talent that Western’s drama department possesses.