Into the Woods

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Rowan students take on dark, award-winning Sondheim favorite.

When a cast of familiar characters ventures Into the Woods they find that notions of happily-ever-after and getting what one wants aren't always what they seem.

Into the Woods, an award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine to be staged March 30, 31 and April 1 in Rowan University’s Pfleeger Concert Hall, weaves an amalgamated story featuring such well-known characters as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel.

The main characters, along with a childless baker and his wife, cross paths in the woods where they encounter witches, giants, big bad wolves, and more.

Director Rebecca Rich, a Rowan visiting artist, said the Grimm brothers' fairy tales always had a sinister side that Sondheim and Lapine found great joy in exploring and, now, Rich does too.

"The tales were dark, dangerous and scary, but a lot of fun, and I'm trying to tap into that," she said.

Staged in two acts, the play takes audiences on a journey filled with wishes of wealth, family, society and comfort – and the dark underbelly of dreams come true.

"As Act I ends the characters do get these things but then, in Act II, there's a realization that when your dreams come true they may not always be what you actually need," Rich said.

The production, which features 25 Rowan student actors, involved more than 100 students, faculty and staff, who built sets, made costumes and will run lights and sound during the shows.

Rich's production also features what she calls a "movement chorus," a group of student dancers who personify elements of the program including a flock of birds and a graveside tree.

"It's a complicated show, both musically and technically, and great fun to try to execute well," said Rich, who holds an MFA in Acting from Temple (where she was an adjunct professor) and spent 17 years as a professional actor in New York. "Because of the nature of fairy tales and the familiarity of the stories, this should appeal to a wide audience."

Senior performing arts major Dona Marie Pizzo plays "Little Red," a pivotal part that she inflects with serious verve.

"She's sassy, a feisty little one," said Pizzo, 22, of West Deptford. "Some characters are a little scared of her. She carries around knives and can be a little intense. Her Granny gave one to her for protection after the Wolf ate her the first time."

Pizzo said the program, with themes of sin, voraciousness, growth and chance is certain to make audiences think – both about the characters they thought they knew and the world in which they live.

"You'll see a whole different side to the characters," she said. "Like Cinderella, who is not the dumb princess stereotype. All of the characters have a lot more, ah, character!"

In addition to Pizzo, the cast includes students from across the region including Lauren Berman of Cherry Hill and Kaitlin Kemp of Fredericksburg, Va., as Narrators, Brittany Cinaglia of Mullica Hill as Lucinda, Anthony Crosby of Cherry Hill as the Wolf, Danielle Delbuono of Haddon Heights as Jack’s Mother, Sam Dewitt of Woodbury as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Dane Eissler of Franklinville as The Baker, Jessica Lynn Evans of West Creek as Cinderella, Tyler Garamella of Lindenwold as the Steward, Jenna Garrison of Middletown as the Giant, Krysta Grande of Pennsauken as Granny, Joe Grasso of Swedesboro as the Mysterious Man, Christina Higgins of Mount Laurel as Rapunzel, Jaried Kimberley of Westville as Cinderella's Father, Katie Knoblock of West Deptford as Florinda, Jenna Kuerzi of Mullica Hill as the Witch, Joe Napolitano of Dover, Del., as Cinderella's Prince, Ben Shutman of Ocean Township as Jack, Katie Verde of Toms River as The Baker's Wife, Vincent Yearly of Mount Laurel as Rapunzel's Prince and Brittany Griffiths of Magnolia, Andrea Krapevka of Edison and Andy Spinosi and Julie Wagner of Haddonfield as the movement chorus.

Pfleeger Concert Hall is located in Wilson Hall on Rowan's main campus in Glassboro. Tickets for Into the Woods are free for Rowan students and staff with valid ID, $15 for general admission, and $10 for seniors, non-Rowan students and Rowan alumni. For reservations and information, visit the box office or call (856) 256-4545.

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