Photos compiled by Xiaoyang Wu / THE QUADRANGLE
For the dates of April 12 through 15, the MC Players performed “Into the Woods”: a mashup of classic fairy tales that show us “happily ever after” might not truly exist.
The story follows a baker and his wife, along with many other fairy tale favorites: Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk), Rapunzel and Cinderella.
Matthew Peters, a junior secondary education who plays the baker, said he was very excited to receive one of the lead roles in the production.
“This is the biggest role I’ve ever had in a musical,” Peters said.
The play opens with the narrator (Jake Holland), who serves as our guide throughout the show, introducing us to the main characters, each with a wish of their own: Cinderella (Siobhan Noonan) wants to attend the king’s festival, Jack (Sam Cunningham) wants his cow Milky White to give milk so his mother (Katie Doyle) does not make him sell her and the baker and his wife (Allison Terranova) are desperate to have a child. Each face obstacles in making their wish come true, but while the obstacles of Cinderella and Jack come in the form of family, the baker and his wife have been cursed with infertility by the witch who lives next door (Megan Lawlor).
In order to make their wishes come true, Cinderella, Jack, the baker and his wife must go into the dark woods on the outskirts of their village.
Once in the woods, the baker and his wife set on a task to find ingredients for a potion to reverse the spell. The witch agreed to reverse the curse on the baker’s house if they can find four things in three days: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold. This leads the baker and his wife to interact with several other fairytale characters outside of their own.
First, they exchange the witch’s magic beans with Jack for his cow Milky White (Camryn Kidney). This leads to a tearful goodbye between the two, titled “Goodbye, Old Pal.” Kidney, in a vaudeville cow costume, sobs hysterically while Jack wishes her well. In this song and throughout the entire first act, Kidney stole the show without saying a word.
Next, the baker attempts to steal the red cape from Little Red Riding Hood (Michelle Lapreay), but is thwarted when she screams hysterically until he returns it. Later on, the baker kills the wolf (Joseph Weitekamp) who has consumed her, after which Little Red Riding Hood gives him the cape as a thank you gift.
On the other side of the woods, the baker’s wife stumbles upon a tower in which Rapunzel (Ellen Farrelly) is singing beautifully. She sees that Rapunzel’s hair is “as yellow as corn” and so she tears a hunk of it off.
On her way back to her husband, the baker’s wife bumps into Cinderella, who has run away from the festival for the third night in a row. Reluctantly, the two women switch shoes: so Cinderella can run away and so the baker’s wife obtains the last ingredient for the potion: the slipper as pure as gold.
Though the baker and his wife faced numerous obstacles, including the death of Milky White and the interference of Jack and Little Red Riding Hood, they nevertheless obtain all four ingredients by the third midnight, which restores both the baker’s fertility and the witch’s youth and beauty.
Toward the end of Act One, all of the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished: Cinderella and Rapunzel marry their princes (Christopher Nuzzo and Cameron Turner), Jack is rich and reunited with Milky White, Little Red Riding Hood is now heavily armed with a knife and a wolfskin cape and the baker’s wife is pregnant.
But the wicked face punishment for their crimes: Cinderella’s stepsisters (Chloe Ludlow and Isabel Quinones) now have mutilated feet because they tried to fit the golden slipper that belonged to her. In addition, their eyes are pecked out by birds, making them both morally blind and literally blind. The witch, in exchange for her youth and beauty, lost her power and her adopted daughter, Rapunzel.
The first act ends with a flourish with the entire company singing, “And happy ever after!” But, as the second act reveals, that statement could not be more inaccurate. In the second act, a giantess sets upon the kingdom, in which chaos, scandal and death ensue, leaving it up to the baker and his new friends to save the kingdom from total annihilation.
Putting together a large-scale production such as “Into the Woods” is no easy feat. The process begins late in the spring semester, when potential musicals are pitched by members of the Players. The executive board then selects three productions, which are then sent to director Martin Marchitto, who makes the final decision.
“After reading through the choices and considering the challenges of the production, I make the final decision,” Marchitto said. “My decision is based on which show that I think would provide the most rewarding experiences for the students.”
Marchitto said he was inspired by the dedication of each of the students from the first rehearsal to the last production on Sunday afternoon.
“What makes the Manhattan College Players exceptional is because of the dedication and commitment of the students. They do this because of the love of the art form,” Marchitto said. “It is important to remember that it is not just the actors, but the tech crew as well. Although we bring in a professional costume and lighting designer, it is is the students who do a majority of the work. Even the orchestra is almost all students, conducted by Andy Bauer.”
This dedication is especially prevalent in the week leading up to the production, which is colloquially known among the members of the production as “hell week.” It is during this week that the moving parts of the cast, crew and orchestra all come together for the very first time.
“It’s a lot,” Peters said. “We’ve been there until 1 a.m. since Sunday, and I’ve been having morning classes every day so it’s rough, but I’m pushing through.”
“I actually like Hell Week more than doing the show, because you get to talk to the people onstage more, and you get to talk backstage with the people you’re in the show with and you get to know each other a little bit more,” Peters said.
The pit orchestra, conducted by the college’s music director Andrew Bauer, also faced unique challenges during tech week.
“Tech week is always a hot mess,” Bauer said. “There are so many moving parts that have to come together, with the lighting, the music, the movement. We haven’t had much time to work with the cast with the orchestra, so when they hear [the music] for the first time, it’s a very sort of jarring experience.”
“Sondheim in particular is very challenging from a technical point of view, because the rhythmic entrances of the singing have to be right on, otherwise the orchestra then gets apart from the singing, and it’s very difficult to get them back together,” Bauer said.
“The music is so different [from “Legally Blonde] because Stephen Sondheim, the way he writes his music is very fast-paced and the lyrics are very complex,” Peters said.
The pit orchestra included Alice Rogers, Reba Thomas, Robert Del Prete, Gabriella Herrera, Taizo Enya, Jen Bueti, Kai Landy, Kristen Friedman, Jeremy Capuder and guest conductor Naomi Uy, who also played the violin and cello for the production.
Unfortunately, the MC Players had to say goodbye to six graduating seniors at the conclusion of the production: Sam Corby, Sam Cunningham, Gabriella Herrera, Siobhan Noonan, Allison Terranova and Joseph Weitekamp.
Each of the graduating seniors brought something great to their respective roles within the production. Herrera played flute as a member of the pit orchestra, and gave a voice to Cinderella’s birds, who came to her aid in times of trouble throughout the musical.
Corby, who played the Mysterious Man, was a crucial component to the first act, guiding all of the intersecting storylines together to help the baker in his quest. It is revealed at the end of the first act that the Mysterious Man is actually the baker’s father, but he dies before they can truly reconcile. However, they reunite once more when the baker is undergoing a moral crisis. Corby and Peters, who have co-directed several productions during their time in Players, had fantastic chemistry during their second act duet, “No More.”
Cunningham played Jack and brought a true fun-loving feel to the role. Though poor and separated from his best friend, Cunningham brought childlike hope and wonder to her role of Jack, particularly in the onstage chemistry with Milky White (Kidney) and in her solo song, “Giants in the Sky.”Noonan played one of the main roles of Cinderella. In her final role in a mainstage production, Noonan brought a great believability to the role of Cinderella as she undergoes a personality change from idealistic to realistic, once she has been thwarted by her beloved prince’s infidelity.
Terranova, the baker’s wife, serves as her husband’s partner-in-crime throughout the play. Though the pair are not immune to the occasional lover’s quarrel, they persist in their teamwork, and it is only when they are apart do they fail in their moral endeavors. Terranova particularly shone in her solo “Moments in the Woods,” where she ponders the consequences of her romp in the trees with Cinderella’s Prince.
Lastly, Weitekamp, in the featured role of the wolf, brought some of his talents to the role. Weitekamp, also known by the alias “Magic Joe”, brought some of his sorcery onstage during his song, “Hello, Little Girl”, where he entranced Little Red Riding Hood with magic tricks involving flowers, scarves and, most impressively, a long staff.
The hard work of the Players was evident in the impressive production staged. Sondheim is not a simple walk in the park, but the MC Players took the challenges of the production in stride for a fantastic performance.
The mainstage productions for next year will be announced on the Players’ various social media accounts.