Biola University presents "Into the Woods"
With a deep voice and an elegant costume, senior Matthew Kellaway becomes Rapunzel's prince.
“It’s just that feeling,” Kellaway said. “As soon as I put on the sword, it makes me feel like royalty.”
Kellaway’s sword is one of numerous props adding to an extensive set -- much of it built by the cast -- that transports audiences to the world of Stephen Sondheim’s well-known musical, “Into the Woods,” a story about what happened after happily ever after. With an orchestra that magically came together in just two weeks of practice, costumes borrowed from a theatre company in Utah and choreography by Michele Stevens, this production is one of the most extensive the Biola Conservatory of Music has ever produced. Kellaway said he hopes it is the beginning of broader horizons for more musical theatre productions.
Production draws packed house
Along with the privilege of having two-time Grammy nominee Amick Byram as the guest director, the production boasted a sold out house for its first few performances last weekend. Cast members reached out to involve the community, putting fliers on cars outside the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and advertising the show with fliers around town.
Biola cast welcomes challenges
Distributing fliers was the least of the cast’s hard work preparing for the show. The cast spend much of the fall semester rehearsing and memorizing their parts. They met regularly to practice, with accompaniment on the piano by senior Trevor Gomes, who also plays the narrator and the Mysterious Man.
Sondheim’s music isn’t the easiest to sing, either, Kellaway said.
Junior Tyler Wigglesworth said much of Sondheim’s music is like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” with groups singing different things at the same time and with different rhythms going at different times.
“There’s a lot of ensemble stuff you have to work together on,” Kellaway said. “Sondheim, he’s genius for what he writes.”
Guest director encourages cast to own the show
Byram joined the cast in January for a month of extensive, all-day, all-week practices. Many practices went as long as 10 hours.
“It’s been such a great rehearsal process,” said Wigglesworth, who plays Jack. “The expectation was laid before us and he really just pushed. It has been very professional.”
Wigglesworth and other cast members said they’ve learned a lot from Byram about theatre and using it for God’s glory.
“[Byram] pours in these nuggets of wisdom about being a Christian in the business,” Wigglesworth said.
Byram wanted the show to belong to the cast, Wigglesworth said.
“He knows how to get ourselves to create our own version,” Kellaway said. “He gives us an outline and lets us fill [it in]. It really is a fairy tale. Just like being kids and running around in a fantasy world.”
Singing to a cow
Wigglesworth recalled a time Byram told him to pretend he was a toddler playing patty cake with a cow. Jack, Wigglesworth’s character from the classic tale Jack and the Beanstalk, is a child at heart and is forced to grow up throughout the events of the show.
“Who would have thought I would be singing to a cow?” Wigglesworth said.
Gomes and senior Kelsey Seitz, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, also expressed their joy in taking on more silly characters.
“The Mysterious Man, he’s a nut who has lived in the woods for most of his life and is one with the vines and the trees,” Gomes said. “I let myself go, slouched, was awkward and dangly. The Narrator is straight-laced Masterpiece Theatre. It’s just reading more than anything. I take a deep breath, relax, and I’m the Narrator.”
“Into the Woods” offers a little bit of something for everyone
“[Sondheim] goes beyond the surface level and dives into a lot of characters and what they’re really made of,” Kellaway said. “He gives the audience exactly what they need, to feel the way they need to feel.”
“[The plot] is sophisticated, very clever, even slapstick,” Gomes said. “The music is gorgeous, a genre of its own, so well written and bordering on classical.”
Kellaway said he thinks everyone can come away with something, whether a life lesson or just laughs.
“It has a great cast, set, costumes, and an amazing director,” Kellaway said.