Into the Woods
by Northglenn Youth Theatre

Michael Ochoa and Jon McMinnThe curtain is up this week for "Into the Woods" at Northglenn Youth Theatre in Northglenn, Colorado. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, "Into the Woods" has become a hit with high schools and youth and community theatres across the country. However, don't let the fairy tales fool you- this show isn't for sissies.

The show intertwines several Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, but pushes the envelope by exploring the consequences of the character's choices. A narrator, played here by the capable Alex Buchman, introduces the characters. When a Baker and his Wife learn they've been cursed with childlessness by the Witch next door, they embark on a quest for special objects required to break the spell. Swindling, lying to and stealing from Cinderella, Little Red, Rapunzel and Jack (as in "and the beanstalk") all are part of the plot. Everyone's wish is granted at the end of Act One, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later, with disastrous results. What begins a lively irreverent fantasy becomes a moving lesson about community responsibility and the stories we tell our children.

As the first number started the show in commanding fashion, I suspected NYT Director Kimberly Jongejan must have had a heart for this show. After glancing through the show program, it turned out to be exactly the case for her with "Woods". Lauren Johnston and Haley DiVirgilioMany directors have a particular love for a story, and we see a show absolutely blossom because of it. Most NYT shows are very good, creative and solid, but this one went above and beyond. You can see Ms. Jongejan's passion for the show. The sets, by glenn g. grassi, are fun and inventive, including a curtain of woodsy material in the house and some staging set in the pit. Debbie Faber's costumes are wonderful, as always, with 2 terrific cows, darling birds and a hen to build on the wonderful pieces for the main characters.

There is some very big talent at NYT, which all worked together to make "Into the Woods" gel. Cinderella was played by the lovely Haley DeVirigilio, Jack's Mother by the expressive Brandi Hadfield, and the Witch by a playful Sydney Hollingsworth. Brandon Lopez and Aaron Butts were the 2 Princes- wonderful in "Agony". The Mysterious Man was played by Jon McMinn and Little Red Riding Hood was Lauren Johnston. Truly enjoyable was Kyle Steeno, who it would have been great to have more singing to do as Jack. He was a delight to watch, with a fun lanky body type that works for him and unique voice. Absolutely beautiful was the Baker's Wife, Terra Salazar, who one would love to listen to sing all day. She was wonderfully in character, taking us on a ride from the devoted wife to the "slightly lacking in virtue" companion to Cinderella's naughty Prince. And then, there was the memorable was Michael Ochoa as the Baker. He has a gorgeous singing voice, was always in character and made the audience completely believe in his character, sympathizing with his plight throughout. Michael is destined for a career in theatre if that is what he chooses.

Sondheim is tough material for anyone, let alone youth who are often beginners studying theatre. His use of syncopated Sydney Hollingsworth and Heidi Cole speech is difficult to control and use effectively, yet this production manages to carry it off. The songs contain thought narratives, where characters converse or think aloud- it is arguably Sondheim's best work. Kudos to Musical Director Glen Dennis for making it work so well. The beautiful "Children Will Listen" is a musical theatre standard, but numbers such as "Moments in the Woods" and the all-too-brief "It Takes Two" are standouts as well.

I doubt this cast will ever forget being part of this journey in the "Woods" this year- it was a special show, which will be evident to everyone who is lucky enough to see it. Congratulations to NYT's Cast and Crew on a job very, very well done.

Performs April 13-22, 2007.

Tammy Franklin
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Narrator: Alex Buchman
Cinderella: Haley DiVirgilio
Baker: Michael Ochoa
Baker's Wife: Terra Salazar
Jack: Kyle Steeno
Jack's Mother: Brandi Hadfield
Milky White: Heidi Cole
Step Mother: Nicole Campbell
Florinda: Tessa Cevaal
Lucinda: Hannah Wold
Little Red Riding Hood: Lauren Johnston
Witch: Sydney Hollingsworth
Cinderella's Father: Ryan Bowman
Cinderella's Mother/Snow White: Aubrey Putnam
Mysterious Man: Jon McMinn
Wolf/Cinderella's Prince: Brandon Lopez
Rapunzel: Lauren Lewakowski
Rapunzel's Prince: Aaron Butts II
Steward: Kai Klose
Granny: Christina Roberts
Giant: Ravana McPherson
Harp/Sleeping Beauty: Monique Tixier
Hen: Hannah Fletcher
Ts'eh Cacek
Grayce Crick
Julia Ehmka
Jada Johnson
Katelynn Luctenberg

Director: Kimberly Jongejan
Musical Director: Glen Dennis
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Rachel Brazell
Technical Director/Set Design: glenn g. grassi
Costumes: Debbie Faber


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