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The student news site of Colonia High School

The Declaration

The student news site of Colonia High School

The Declaration

Colonia High School tackles Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’

Photo Credit: Tess Powell
Advertisement for Colonia High Schools ‘Into The Woods’! This poster was made by technical director, Abigail Gonzales.

Thursday, March 21 is opening night for Colonia High School’s performance of Into the Woods. The show will run until Sunday, March 24. Each theatrical show performed presents some obstacles for the actors, stage crew, directors, musicians and costumers. “Into the Woods” had those dilemmas coupled with the typical Sondheim show challenges.

What intricacies come with preforming a show by Sondheim? How does a high school tackle that?

Who was Sondheim?

Stephen Sondheim was a talented composer, lyricist, and writer in his lifetime. Sondheim’s notoriety was for writing and composing many popular musicals. Musicals that still today manage to captivate the minds of Broadway fanatics around the world. According to Britannica, some of Sondheim’s most popular plays are: ”Assassins”, “Sweeney Todd”, “West Side Story” and of course “Into the Woods.” Though Sondheim passed away on November 26, 2021 at the age of 91 due to a cardiovascular disorder, according to a memorial article written by The New Yorker his legacy lives on in the theater. 

Sondheim received 8 Tony Awards, an Academy Award, 8 Grammy Awards, an Olivier Award and a Pulitzer Prize. In 1993, to chronicle his works, the Stephen Sondheim Society was created. The society’s annual Student Performer of the Year Competition awards money to one of twelve musical-theatre students from UK drama schools and universities. At Sondheim’s request, new song by a young composer is eligible for an additional prize.

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Despite that, this year Colonia High School will be taking on the challenge and producing Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods.” 

Intricacies of a Sondheim show

What made Sondheim such a success and what makes his works stand out are the intricacies within his musicals. Wikipedia notes, “Sondheim’s Broadway musicals tackled unexpected themes that ranged beyond the genre’s traditional subjects, while addressing darker elements of the human experience. His music and lyrics were tinged with complexity, sophistication, and ambivalence about various aspects of life.”

Technical Director, Abigail Gonzales said that due to Sondheim’s distinct theatrical style, performing in or producing a musical by him can be challenging. Known for his complex polyphony in his vocals, Sondheim also adds angular harmonies and intricate melodies.

Alyssa Cifelli, who stars as Cinderella in the production explained, “All the moving parts can be frustrating, but what you have to remember is that in the end, it’s all going to come together.”  Since a Sondheim musical is unlike any other musical, all parts have a lot of work. Cast, crew, and directors have surrendered much of their time to this musical.  However, after months of work the crew, the show has become its best version of itself which is thrilling to its cast, crew and directors.

For the audience

Now that the curtains are rising, it is time for words of advice for the potential audiences of CHS’ production of ‘Into the Woods.’ “This is not your typical Disney fairy tale. This show is about more than watching these characters come to life.” Shares Gonzales, though ‘Into the Woods’ may appear as a happy go lucky fairy tale, it tells a much deeper story than that. And watch out for giants in the sky while on your way to the theater. 

Into The Woods

Colonia High Schools performances of ‘Into the Woods’ are at 7:00 p.m. from March 21 to March 23 and 2:00 p.m. on March 24. (A fun fact for audiences coming to the March 24 show, that show date is on Sondheim’s birthday.)

If you cannot make it to one of those dates but are still interested in seeing the show, have no fear. In 2014, Disney transformed Sondheim’s stage show into a film starring James Cordon as Baker, Emily Blunt as Bakers Wife, and Meryl Streep as The Witch. If you want to see the fairy tale play out on the big screen or in the comfort of your own home, you can stream it on Disney Plus or Amazon Prime.

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About the Contributor
Tess Powell
Tess Powell, reporter
Tess Powell is an avid member of the Colonia High School family. When she is not participating in a stage production or an academic competition with her school's team (The Juggernauts!), she can be found curled up with a book by one of her favorite authors or watching  a cozy true crime documentary (even though they scare her). Powell takes after her mother, author Brooke Beyfuss, in the sense that she has an immense passion for writing. Powell has written and published many short fiction stories. She has even received a few acknowledgements for her pieces. Despite this she still can’t use proper grammar to save her life. Her favorite genres to write range from horror to romance. After high school, Powell is interested in pursuing a major of writing, literature, and publishing at Emerson College in Boston, MA.     

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