BY ALEX GRUBER
St. Norbert College’s Knight Theatre produced Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, filling the Webb Theatre’s seats with students and faculty eager to view the organization’s rendition of a captivating musical.
The audience was not disappointed.
“Into the Woods” follows the story of the Baker and his wife, who desperately want a child but, as they find out from their neighbor, the Witch, that they cannot have one due to a curse she placed on the Baker’s family. To reverse the spell, the two must venture into the woods, crossing paths with such famous characters as Cinderella and Jack. These and more characters, each with their own wishes, overlap and intertwine in a rich story. The show does not end with your typical happy ending but teaches complex moral lessons as a mature fairy tale.
Participants in the Knight Theatre musical come to St. Norbert College during the January term and rehearse not only as actors but also as pit musicians and crew members. The musical is thus wholly produced by students in three weeks, with Dr. Michael Rosewall serving as the group’s advisor. Stephaine Villanova, ’15, and Kasara Sinkula, ’15, serve as Knight Theatre’s president and vice-president, respectively.
This year, Tanner Lundquist ’15, headed the production of “Into the Woods” as artistic director.
“I have been so fortunate to work with a truly outstanding cast and crew to bring this show to the stage,” Lundquist said. “To direct a Sondheim show like ‘Into the Woods’ is a dream come true!”
With Lundquist were Natasha Behnke ’15, the show’s vocal director, and Jennah Smet ’15, the production’s instrumental director. Together, the three worked with over 20 students to create an impressive atmosphere for “Into the Woods.” The crew made excellent use of the smaller space available in the Webb Theatre. Simple props and moveable set pieces allowed for quick scene changes. The pit was superb, playing Sondheim’s score beautifully and was supplemented nicely by the lighting. Finally, the costumes accurately reflected the traditional dress of our favorite fairy-tale characters. Altogether, the technical aspects of the show combined to create the magical yet mysterious world of childhood stories that “Into the Woods” intricately weaves together.
The cast of “Into the Woods” brought the show fully to life. All students displayed great talent, high energy and few and minor mistakes, fully immersing the audience into the story. Ben Olejniczak ’16, played the Baker, with Erika Jahnke ’16, as the Baker’s Wife. Both assumed their roles well, moving between moments of comedy and drama with ease. Genevieve Gannon ’15, portrayed the Witch, exhibiting prodigious vocal and dramatic skill.
“It was wonderful coming in and working with people who were so dedicated to theatre,” Gannon said. “Portraying a role as challenging as the Witch was a great opportunity.”
Cinderella was played by Ana Bakken ’18, and Jack was portrayed by Brian Falk ’17. Samantha Kolb ’17, played Little Red Riding Hood. Benjamin Behnke ’16, and Logan Thomas ’16, starred as Cinderella’s and Rapunzel’s Princes, respectively. Everette Berchmans ’16, commented on the characters’ actions as the Narrator.
“The wonderful thing about Knight Theatre is that it provides so many opportunities for students to step into leadership positions and to express themselves,” Lundquist noted.
With only a few minor mistakes, the students involved in the show created a truly professional production in three weeks. Knight Theatre’s production of “Into the Woods” fulfilled every fairy-tale’s goal: to teach an audience powerful lessons about life through the apparently simple action of telling a story.