The Cast of "Into the Woods": A Masterpiece in 24 Hours

The Southern Methodist University's 24 hour musical, hosted by SMU Program Council, has been a tradition for more than three years. This musical takes students from all majors and all groups (from Simmons to Dedman to Cox to Lyle to Meadows), throws them into 24 hours of rehearsal and tosses them out onstage. It is a remarkable feat, transforming theater into a group effort to make the best show possible, all in rehearsals that all together last less than a day. This semester's musical was selected as "Into the Woods," with music by Stephen Sondheim and a story that links all types of fairytales into one. This dark spin on the story book weaves together the story of a lowly Baker, a vengeful witch, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack with his beanstalk, two princes for good measure, a sick cow and much more all into one story. It's a story with humor, heart and darkness, and that's all within the first act! We were lucky enough to get to talk to this year's cast about their experience in the musical, their character development and their favorite songs.

 

Nicole Daniels as Rapunzel

Sophomore, Vocal Performance Major

Her Campus SMU: How have you been preparing for the role of Rapunzel?

Nicole Daniels: I started preparing by looking over the sheet music. I am primarily a singer, so, naturally, I like to look over the vocal parts first. I have also gone over my lines and listened to various versions of the songs to get an idea of how the character can be portrayed.

 

HCSMU: What do you love about this character? What is the hardest part of this role?

ND: I guess my favorite part of the character is who she is. I have loved princesses and fairy tales since I was a kid. I find the Brothers Grimm version of Rapunzel's tale to be very interesting, so it's fun to be able to venture into a version of Rapunzel's story. The hardest part is being able to sing Rapunzel's theme at random points in the script, sometimes without being given a starting pitch.

 

HCSMU: What's your favorite song in the production?

ND: I would have to say "Our Little World." It's the scene where the Witch is climbing Rapunzel's hair. It's comedic, as the Witch tugs and tugs at her hair, making Rapunzel visibly annoyed. 

 

Alessandro Lopez as Cinderella’s Prince

Freshman, Theatre Major

HCSMU: How have you been preparing for the role of Cinderella's Prince?

Alessandro Lopez: In preparation for this role, I have been looking introspectively into myself. By doing so I ask myself a series of simple questions: "Who am I? What do I want? And how do I go about in achieving what I want?" These questions aid in finding character from the initial material the story already provides. Then, I do my homework and I play around with the physical life of the character. I can’t remember how many times my roommate has opened the door on me as I stood there with my shirt half way opened, one leg on the chair, as I made a kissy face. No matter how embarrassing it may be, this is how I find the character’s physically life. The best part of all this is actually taking all of this to the rehearsal space and are able to apply it to the big picture that is being drawn by the director.

 

HCSMU: Do you feel like you relate to his character?

AL: Definitely, I find myself in the same shoes as the Prince. Not that I’m saying I’m royalty, but the fact that no matter what status he has, I see him as a human being. As the actor, all I have to do it turn up the volume of some of the aspects of myself that I normally have at low volume. For example, the Prince is a womanizer and has no true sympathy for women. In a way, they are object to him. For myself, I will say most definitely that I was raised to treat women with the outmost respect and to treat THEM like royalty, not the other way around. So there you can see the difference. But I’m similar terms, he is a product of the environment he was raised in. Knowing this, he is only on a journey that he can only control so much of. And in that sense, I can relate to him. Being pushed by all these forces and only being able to grab at the bits and pieces that I can take charge of. However, this is an element of theatre that I love and is one of the many reasons why I love to be on stage.

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite song in the musical?

AL: I know everyone is going to see this coming, but it will have to be “Agony.” Not because it’s the most famous number by the prince, but because it gives the audience an inside look to the psychology and reasoning of the Prince. This is the only moment in the play in which the Prince throws himself out there and just leaves it all on the audience. With that said, it’s also so much more enjoyable because I get to perform it with my good stage partner, Jeffery Pope, who plays my brother, Rapunzel’s Prince.

 

Eileen Riley as Little Red Riding Hood

Freshman, Political Science Major

HCSMU: What is your favorite thing about this character?

Eileen Riley: My favorite thing about playing Little Red is her development from innocence to maturity by the end of the show. Plus, she is so sassy and fun!

 

HCSMU: How has the rehearsal process been?

ER: The rehearsal process has been intense. With only a few rehearsals, putting together a show over 2 hours is had, but I think it will really pay off.

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite song in the musical?

ER: My favorite song from the production is "The Last Midnight."

 

Shyama Nithiananda as the Witch

Photo by Makena Markman

Transfer Theatre Studies Major

HCSMU: What do you feel like is challenging about the role of the Witch?

Shyama Nithiananda: The Witch is challenging for all the same reasons that she’s fun: at her base, she’s a mother with a daughter in a long line of mothers and daughters with twisted relationships. Almost all of us, as women, have an idea of what that’s like, so it’s a blessing and a curse because something that close to home is tough for me to tap into onstage.

 

HCSMU: How have you been preparing for this production?

SN: This is one of my favorite musicals, so preparing for it has been different than what I normally do for shows. I’ve spent most of my time trying to relax my expectations of what the Witch should be like and really be open to a new version of her. That and this music – nothing prepares you to learn Sondheim like this.  

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite number from the musical?

SN: My favorite number has always been “No More,” which the Baker sings with the Mysterious Man. Nothing in the whole musical theatre genre resonates with me quite like that song - And it doesn’t hurt to have some truly awesome people working on it! Mac and Ben are a joy and a blessing to watch in that scene.

 

Averie Bishop as Cinderella

 

Human Rights and Political Science Major with minors in Sociology and Anthropology

HCSMU: How do you feel you are like the character of Cinderella?

Averie Bishop: I see quite a lot of myself in Cinderella. I don't come from a very affluent family - I have lived most of my life in the lower middle class. There was even a time where my parents had to live off of food stamps! But despite the financial hardships we faced as a family, we overcame our obstacles and now live a very comfortable lifestyle. I feel Cinderella is the living fruition of my subconscious wants and desires. She longs for so much more than what she has, but when she finally receives everything she could ever dream, she realizes it will never be enough. It is a lesson that I have personally experienced!

 

HCSMU: How have you been preparing for this role?

AB: Since we only have 24 hours of rehearsal to produce one of the most challenging Sondheim musicals, I have been immersed in the music. When I’m in the car, the soundtrack is on. When I’m training for my marathon, I’m listening to my solos as I work out. In the shower, you can catch me belting out the chorus. There has not been one day where I didn't listen to the score in its entirety. 

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite song in this Production?

AB: My favorite song is "No One Is Alone" - I believe it's one of the most important messages Sondheim is trying to convey throughout the plot. And conveniently enough, the message is right there in the title! 

 

 

Curtis Faulkner as Jack

Photo by Makena Markman

Junior Theatre Major with a Musical Theatre Minor

 

HCSMU: How do you feel you are like the character of Jack? How are you two different?

Curtis Faulkner: Jack and myself share a love of exploring and adventure. Jack's genuine curiosity and competitive nature can sometimes put him in situations where he has bit off more than he can chew, which is something I can relate to, although I have never pissed off a giant. Additionally, Jack is such a mama's boy that he braves climbing up a bean stalk and stealing magical items to bring back as a gift for his mother. Let it be known that I too would do that for my mom. One way that Jack and I are different is Jack starts out with only one friend, his cow. I can honestly say that I have multiple friends, none of which are cows. 

 

HCSMU: How would you describe this production's rehearsal process? What have you liked about it?

CF: For the family weekend musical, the rehearsal process is always extremely short, which forces the actors to really have to be on top of their stuff. I love how fast paced the blocking of the show is. Everyone understands that we're not rushing because we want to, it's out of necessity, and that challenges people to bring their best foot forward and rise to the occasion.

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite number in this production?

CF: My favorite number in the production is "Your Fault" because of how shady it is. All of the main characters read each other for filth, snatch edges, and send wigs into orbit. It's messy, and I love it. 

 

Mac Welch as the Baker

 

Photo by Makena Markman

 

Sophomore Theatre Major

 

HCSMU: How has the rehearsal process been?

Mac Welch: The rehearsal process has been crazy, but it always is. I have particularly enjoyed the times I have met with people outside the planned rehearsals to really dive deeper than 24 hours allows. It's a smart cast!

 

HCSMU: How have you been preparing for the role of the Baker?

MW: it has been a serious rollercoaster. There is so much to memorize in so little time. And it really takes communication with the whole cast to make the roll even passable, so I have had a rad time getting to work with so many people all at once. It takes a lot of trust, and we've all got each others backs now.

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite song in this production?

MW: My favorite song is definitely "No One Is Alone." It's the theme of the show and it resonates with me the most. It is also sung by so many talented people throughout the show, and luckily also me. Sondheim really knows what he is doing.

 

Stevie Keese as the Baker's Wife

 

Photo by Makena Markman

 

Sophomore Theatre Major and Musical Theatre Minor

HCSMU: What do you love about the character of the Baker's wife? What do you hate?

Stevie Keese:  I love the humor and sass that the Baker's wife has, she has no problem saying what she thinks which is a quality I admire. I also think that her desire for something more that she has (a.k.a., the Prince) is something that we can all relate to. Hate is such a strong word to use, and I never like to say that I hate anything about any of the characters that I play. I wish that the Baker's Wife was in more of the second act, because just as her journey is beginning to get interesting, she dies (SPOILER ALERT!).

 

HCSMU: Besides this production, what is your favorite musical?

SK: My favorite musical, other than Into the Woods obviously, is Spring Awakening. I have never personally worked on this show yet, but I definitely want to. I think it is an extremely important piece of theatre, especially for young adults. It beautifully encapsulates the experiences of repressed teenagers and the fatal effects that can occur from this type of repression.

 

HCSMU: What is your favorite song from this production?

SK: My favorite Into the Woods song is "No One is Alone", it gives me chills every time I hear it (especially in this production).

 

Chloe Clark-Soles as Granny/Giant

History and Religious Studies double major

HCSMU: How have you been preparing for this role?

Chloe Clark-Soles: In Into the Woods I played red riding hoods granny and the voice of the giant, I have played older characters in the past so for granny it was all about the physicality of what a granny would walk and talk like as well as smaller movement like head turns and shoulder movements. For the giant I use a russian accent so I prepared for that my just practicing my lines and working on pronunciation and emphasis.

 

HCSMU: How has the rehearsal process been?

CCS: We had around 24 hours total to rehearse the show so it was a lot of outside work individually. It was a ton of fun getting to know everyone and seeing just what all we could do in such a short period of time!  

HCSMU: What is your favorite song in the musical?

CCS: Such a hard question! The score for this show is incredible! Performance wise I love the Act II finale because it's combines lots of themes from many songs and we all got to do it together! But the song "No More" sung by the baker and mysterious man will always be my favorite from the show, and Mac and Ben really killed it when they sang it on Sunday!