It was a grueling, stressful, unimaginably difficult 8 months of rehearsing, but Vanier’s Music Department has finally completed its three night run of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. The two-and-a-half hour-long musical production is Sondheim’s love letter to the classic fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, weaving an intricate narrative from the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella. Unfortunately, the fairy tale aspect of the musical ends with the story, as the music itself is a challenge even for veterans of musical theater. The Insider sat down with cast members of Into the Woods just days before opening night to find out how they managed it all.
It all started with Tamara Vickerd, Vanier’s classical voice teacher, who set out to organize and direct a full-scale musical. “Emma lovingly suggested we do Into the Woods, and then together we convinced Tamara to do the whole thing,” explains Chris Gaudreault, pianist and director of the orchestra. “She wanted to do just the first half […] and we said, ‘Um, no way! We’re either not doing it, or we’re doing the whole thing.’ ”
All of the cast members and musicians agreed it was the biggest project any of them had ever done, made even more difficult by the fact that the production only had two stage hands. “A lot of us have done shows before, but we’re used to doing shows where things just sort of happen,” confesses Emma Loerick, who plays Little Red Riding Hood in addition to being the production manager. “Every single person in this show is playing a really important role in getting things done, and if we need something we’re all volunteering to get it done.”
“We are the crew,” says Sam Boucher, who is both the Big Bad Wolf and Rapunzel’s prince. “I’ve spent five or six hours in the past three weeks helping our director with lights, and I’m just a cast member.”
“You can never be too prepared to put on a musical […] there’s always gonna be, like, ‘oh, it’s not so ready, but here we go, go on stage everyone! ‘ You’re always gonna have that feeling.
“The hurdles aren’t on the track, people throw them at you.”
Even with the headaches of equipment and sound engineering, the biggest challenge for all was still the music itself.
“There’s a few aspects of the music that make it really, really hard,” explains Chris. “First of all, there’s not really an ensemble […] everybody has their own line doing something different. You don’t have that kind of support. Harmonically it’s fucked up, like, totally fucked. It’s not your typical One-Five-One-Five-One-Four-Five-One that you’ll get, everything is just all over the place. It modulates about 7,000-7,002 times per song. There’s difficult entrances, the beat is not always clear. It’s hard for me to catch singers if they come in wrong.”
The list goes on. “Everyone has to know everything they’re doing and everything everyone else is doing like the palm of their hand,” says Sam.
If there’s one thing everyone in the cast was unanimous about, it was that the project never would have gotten where it was without director Liz Valdez. Sam explains, “She came in and dropped some of her own personal projects […] almost 2/3 of the way through the rehearsal process. Liz, bless her frickin’ heart, came in, took our show, put it on her back, and has been running with it since February.”
“The music was gonna be really solid, that’s what we were hanging on to. And then Liz came in and said, ‘um, none of that. ‘She waved her wand and all of us magically became good actors.”
Despite the obstacles in their way, all the cast members were confident that they had pulled through. Into the Woods is a project the size and scope of which Vanier may never see again, and the laughs, gasps and rounds of applause from the audience confirmed the production’s success.
And two dozen exhausted musicians lived happily ever after.
Written By: Ian Down