The Upper School production of Into the Woods Jr. is a wrap, and it’s safe to say that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the show!
Marin Horizon’s Director of Performing Arts, Lauren Brody-Clarke, worked with budding thespians from sixth through eighth grades to mount an especially ambitious performance this year from renowned composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The whole musical is like a light opera – the story is sung, and there are very few lines.
Into the Woods Jr. tells a story that is new to many, and it was especially fun to see the younger kids in the audience at the San Anselmo Playhouse experience this engaging story for the first time. The response was one of awe and excitement. Upper School Director, Ben Fussiner, described the atmosphere as “electric!”
What happens in this story?
Steven Sondheim has taken the Brothers Grimm’s tales and twisted them into one giant adventure to teach lessons about being careful what you wish for, taking risks, and having the courage to go into the proverbial woods and come out the other side as a different, better person. The lessons are woven together and told through different characters including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella.
Set design, lights, and special effects. Students do it all.
This year, 56 students participated to mount a production that rivals the caliber of high school performances and beyond. As with all of our Upper School shows, the students memorize lines, songs, and choreography, and they also run the lights and sound, and help design and build the sets and props.
Eighth grader, Anika Agarwal, who played the witch shared, “It was a really fun experience. It’s the best play we’ve ever done, and the most complicated and the most fun to produce.” She added, “The sixth grade was included this year, so the cast and tech was bigger than usual. I got to hang out and socialize with a lot of people.”
Performers and technicians included a group of students who love musical theater and will likely pursue it into high school and maybe beyond, and a big group of kids who have never done musical theater before but wanted to try it and have fun.
“Every student of theater, especially musical theater, needs to know who Steven Sondheim is. He’s an icon,” explained Lauren as she described why she chose this challenging musical for the students to take on. She added, “He’s incredibly complicated, and the time signatures and storyline are nuts!” But the cast delivered it all with aplomb.
Bill Perrine’s Cameo is Always a Highlight
As in previous years, Head of School Bill Perrine delighted in making a cameo. This year, he played a sadistic doctor who chopped off the feet of Cinderella’s stepsisters in order to make them fit the shoe.
Bill shared, “There’s something about being part of the cast that is exhilarating. Watching the students come together to deliver an incredible performance always moves me. Watching Lauren and her team manage 56 middle schoolers with such energy, patience, and professionalism is also magical.”
“Most rewarding for me, however, is how the students take care of me backstage. Without fail, they make sure my costume looks good, that I know when and where to enter, and, most importantly, they calm my nerves. And, no matter how my performance goes (reviews over the years are mixed), they always have something kind to say when I come off stage. It really is a wonderful experience.”