Recommended Theater: INTO THE WOODS (Pasadena Unified School District and Pasadena Unified School District at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium)

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by Tony Frankel on January 18, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles

DON’T MISS GOING INTO THESE WOODS

The kickoff event for Pasadena Playhouse’s six-month celebration of Stephen Sondheim begins next week with Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, January 26 and 27, 2023. For six months now, the Playhouse has been collaborating with all of the high schools of Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) so that the students could realize a production of their own vision. Working alongside theater professionals, over 200 high school students and faculty members have been working to design, rehearse and create their own special production. PUSD students are participating as actors, musicians, technical crew, and costume and scenic design.

There will be a matinee performance for other students from PUSD on Jan 26 & 27. One performance on Jan 27 at 7pm will be free for the community — and I am definitely attending. Imagine being a 17-year-old drama student given this opportunity. High School is the biggest turning point for those deciding to embark on a career in the performing arts, and they must be supported. The production, directed by Fran de Leon, also features Jane Kaczmarek as the Narrator (at the evening performance), and Alexandra Billings as the voice of the Giant at all performances.

Asher Hammer (Baker), Makena Magalong (Baker's Wife) and Ida Hartel (Witch)

Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Lapine (book) mash up a slew of well-known fairy tales to tell a delightful, brand-new story: A Baker and his Wife search for four objects necessary to break a witch’s curse. The creators utilize over 25 intertwining characters — including Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack (of Beanstalk fame) — as they all search for their desires among the darkness of gnarled trees.

In the second act — which really packs a wallop — wishes are fulfilled but happiness remains elusive, and the diminishing ensemble increasingly realizes that actions have consequences, not just for individuals but for the community at large. Not normally associated with standards, Sondheim wrote some of his best standalone songs in this act, including “No One is Alone” and “Children Will Listen.” This production brings a fresh local perspective, with references to Pasadena geography, landmarks, and history of the region, as well as the social and systemic challenges faced by underrepresented communities in the region over time.

Ida Hartel (Witch) and Company

rehearsal photos courtesy of PUSD

Into the Woods
Pasadena Playhouse and PUSD
Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E Green St
student-only matinees Jan 26 and 27 at 10:30am
general public performance January 27, 2023, at 7pm
for tickets, call 626-356-7529 or visit Pasadena Playhouse

The cast of Into the Woods includes Asher Hammer as the Baker, Makena Magalong as the Baker’s Wife, Ida Hartel as the Witch, Yazlynn Acosta as Cinderella, Zephen Peter as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf 1, Maddie Harbison as Red Riding Hood, Mattias Orr as Jack, Amora Evans as Jack’s Mother, Audrey Bradley-McKinnon as Rapunzel, Kaleb Del Villar as Rapunzel’s Prince/Wolf 2, Vega Benn as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Jade Farrise as Florida, and Yahsaiah Curry as Lucinda.

The cast also features Michael Mendoza as Mysterious Man, Jasper Barrera as Steward, Marley Thach as Milkey White/Cinderella’s Mother US, Paulina McConnell as Granny/Cinderella US/Jack Puppet, Genesis Holmes as Cinderella’s Mother/Granny US, Marshall Gluck as Narrator/Baker US, and Joel Griffin as Cinderella’s Father/Rapunzel’s Prince US.

The Ensemble of Into the Woods includes Zora Arceneaux as Lady Giant/Jack’s Mother US, Elizabeth Amicone as Cinderella’s Mom Arm/Little Red US, Akemi Wong as Cinderella’s Mom Arm/Rapunzel US, Emily Johnson as Steward US, Phinn McFarland as Little Pig #1/Jack US/Puppet US, Ian Timburg as Little Pig #2/Cinderella’s Prince US, Josiah Bowman as Giant/Cinderella’s Father US, Olivia Barrios as Little Pig #3/Witch US, Stepmother US. Felisa Favela as Baker’s Wife US, Silvia Pinto as Sleeping Beauty/Florinda US, and Miranda Ho as Birds/Snow White/Lucinda US.

Student Stage Managers include Waverly Knight, Jupiter Diaz, Isaiah Rios, Katie Mencken and Roman Favela. Grace Jaffe serves as the Student Directing Intern.

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