Skip to content
Inside Beat

Cabaret Theatre's production of 'Into the Woods' was far from 'Agony'

Shannon O'Connell, a School of Nursing senior, played Little Red Riding Hood in Cabaret Theatre's production of "Into the Woods." – Photo by Cabaret Theatre / Facebook

From April 14 to 16, Rutgers' Cabaret Theatre put on its final mainstage musical of its season, "Into the Woods."

The performance I saw during the evening show on April 15 was incredibly entertaining, emotional and impressive. It's clear that a substantial amount of hard work and dedication went into this production, both backstage and onstage.

Prior to seeing the show, I was able to speak with both its director and assistant director. Since "Into the Woods" is a top-rated show that was recently produced on Broadway and has already been done thousands of times on every kind of stage, I was curious as to what the leaders of this show had in mind for its creative direction.

Director Felicity Winter, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, had a vision that included a unique way of utilizing the cast to populate the theatrical space.

"Hey, would it be crazy if we did 'Into the Woods' where people played trees?" she recalled asking at the beginning of the show selection process.

While using actors to portray the titular woods isn't something every production does, Winter had a team behind her that was equally excited about putting on this show and including some fresh ideas.

As an audience member, having the actors in the show portray the woods themselves created an interesting viewing experience. I thought it worked particularly well in the second act, where actors portraying certain characters who had passed away transformed into trees. Here, their grieving loved ones actually donned these dead characters in the tree costumes as if surrendering them to the woods.

This added an extra thematic layer to the story by reinforcing the show's message laid out in the song "No One is Alone," that those who leave us are never truly gone.

Alyson Kumor, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the production's assistant director, said they were excited for the chance to work with Winter on this specific show. "'Into The Woods' is one of my favorite shows," they said.

The passion that both Winter and Kumor have for this show is clear in how intricate their blocking was and how they took the time to create a new way of experiencing this story by turning the theater into an alleyway stage — where audience members sit on both sides of the actors performing.

Speaking of actors, I thought the entire cast did a great job of playing familiar fairytale characters, from Rapunzel to the Big Bad Wolf. I spoke with Daphne Sardis, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior who portrayed the Witch. She noted that her favorite part of the show was the opportunity it afforded her to play a complex woman character.

"The way Sondheim writes women, in particular, is incredible," she said. "Every woman is a survivor of her circumstance in this show, and it makes it extremely easy to play with the material."

While Sardis began the show by playing the Witch as a chilling and often sardonically witty villain, by the second act's emotional number, "Witch's Lament," I couldn't help but tear up at her portrayal of a shocked and angrily grieving mother. 

Michael Trujillo, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, played Jack in the show and said he was drawn to participate in the show based on his love of Winter and Kumor's vision as well as his interest in the concept of fairy tales.

"My favorite part of 'Into the Woods' is that it's in a fairy tale universe, and fairy tales have always been interesting to me," he said.

Trujillo's performance as Jack nicely showed the character as the same brave young boy from the tale "Jack and the Beanstalk" while giving him a more emotional and anxious side.

Other standout performances included that of Shannon O'Connell, a School of Nursing senior who played Little Red Riding Hood. O'Connell's performance skillfully balanced portraying this beloved character as a curious little girl while also making her brave, resourceful and funny. 

Keiran Varian, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, and Emily Teubner, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, played the Baker and Baker's Wife, respectively, with incredible emotional range and authenticity. Their touching performances showed the struggles and joys of marriage and becoming new parents with raw honesty.

Some musical numbers that stood out to me were "It Takes Two," "Moments in the Woods" and "Finale." In general, I thought the entire cast, crew and orchestra did an amazing job of making a popular musical with familiar fairytale characters feel unique and fun to watch. In the words of Trujillo, "This is one of the hardest shows to do, and I really think we all slayed!"

Though "Into the Woods" has long since retired from its run, Cabaret Theatre will have a fresh season to announce next semester that I, and the many other theater lovers on campus, look forward to seeing.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe