A Journey ‘Into The Arts’ At South High School

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Cinderella, played by freshman Dani Drucker, and Little Red Riding Hood, played by freshman Haylie Lempert, skip into their first high school musical, along with ensemble members Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs in the background. (Photos by Anthony Sokolov and Katelyn Lee)
Cinderella, played by freshman Dani Drucker, and Little Red Riding Hood, played by freshman Haylie Lempert, skip into their first high school musical, along with ensemble members Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs in the background. (Photos by Anthony Sokolov and Katelyn Lee)

The paths of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, a Witch, and a Baker and his wife collided on stage last month as Great Neck South High School performed its production of Into the Woods, a musical written by Stephen Sondheim.

These characters’ tales were not the only ones on stage. Set in a cobweb-ridden attic, a little girl’s imagination took her to the lives and wishes of these famous fictional characters. The lighting morphed the attic into woods as the characters all embarked on their separate journeys to get what they desired: Cinderella wanted the prince and his ball; Little Red, a visit with her grandmother; Jack and his mother, money from selling his cow; and the Baker and the Baker’s Wife, a child of their own. A Witch entered with a request for particular ingredients to create a potion, and the Baker ventured into the woods until his path crossed with those of Little Red Riding Hood and Jack.

Jack’s Mother (Elora Aclin) comforts her son Jack (Jack Doremus) as they contemplate the consequences of selling Jack’s cow, Milky White (Gavin Conroy).
Jack’s Mother (Elora Aclin) comforts her son Jack (Jack Doremus) as they contemplate the consequences of selling Jack’s cow, Milky White (Gavin Conroy).

After more than two hours of being captivated by 40 high school students telling this fictional tale, the audience reflected upon the morals and inevitability of venturing “into the woods” at some point in life. “[The show] was so interesting because it incorporates a spin on multiple tales,” said South High Senior Sophia Shin, an audience member at the show.

As satisfied as the school was with the final product, the production was not easy. Musical Director Dr. Pamela Levy commented about the difficulty of the score’s musicality, and how the specific harmonies and melodies were hard to master. “I am so proud that our students took this show seriously and were disciplined and focused,” Dr. Levy said. “I think the end result really showed their hard work and dedication.”

The Baker (Jonathon Schindler) and his wife (Isabella Malfi) sing “It Takes Two” in a rare moment of appreciation for their lives and relationship.
The Baker (Jonathon Schindler) and his wife (Isabella Malfi) sing “It Takes Two” in a rare moment of appreciation for their lives and relationship.

Tryouts for the musical began the second week of school. The cast started rehearsing during the third week of school, and had finished all initial staging rehearsals by the end of October. Principals, the leading performers of the play, had a larger commitment to the show because they had more stage time, and required more rehearsals to master the content. It was common for some of the actors to be called for rehearsal five days a week. The cast, crew and student orchestra also worked hard during holidays, such as Columbus, Election and Veterans Day. The ensemble also played an essential role in contributing to the volume and energy of the musical’s opening and finales.

The Into the Woods cast
The Into the Woods cast

Because the show often involved multiple fairy tales in one scene, the principals were usually called together to rehearse simultaneously. The larger group numbers required multiple three-hour rehearsal days for staging, choreography, singing or a combination of the three. While this may sound exhausting, senior Elora Aclin, who played the role of Jack’s mother, loved her role because of rehearsals. “I was an abusive mother, and I got to hit my dear friend Jack Doremus [who played the role of Jack] a bunch of times, which was really amusing for me,” Aclin said. “I got to be someone that I am definitely not [in reality].”

South’s Drama Department Chairperson Tommy Marr said, “Everything came together” on stage. On the last night of the show, as he sat with Choreographer Tammy Colucci in the back of the auditorium, Marr added, “The moment when the little girl says ‘I wish’ and the lights go out was one of my proudest moments of my career [at South].”

Theatre South’s next main-stage production will be Rumors on Feb. 3 to 6.

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