The poet Robert Frost wrote in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “the woods are lovely dark and deep.”
Those who attend the Smith-Cotton Junior High production of “Into the Woods Jr.,” tonight or Saturday will want to add new adjectives to the list, including entertaining and charming, among others.
The play, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is based on the book by James Lapine and was recently released as a movie starring Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep.
“I let the students choose between two plays I had in mind,” S-C junior high speech and theatre instructor, Rylan Swank said. “It was between ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Into the Woods.’
“I think the vote was overwhelming for ‘Into the Woods’ based on popularity of the movie,” he added. “It is a big fairy tale show that caters to a lot of generations.”
The 30 cast and crew members have been working since mid-September on the production, which was presented twice Thursday morning to student and staff audiences from the middle school and Sedalia elementary schools.
“We really wanted to do the productions for the younger students,” Swank said. “It helps the actors overcome their jitters because they have the chance to have some dress rehearsals in front of a live audience.
“We also wanted to do this because for many of the younger students this was perhaps the first time they would ever see a live production like this with the lighting and staging,” Swank added.
Another first time experience for some sixth grade students was the opportunity to be part of a school production.
“When the freshmen were still here (attending classes) they could choose if they wanted to be in the high school theatre productions or if they wanted to do the junior high shows,” Swank explained. “Now that they are at Smith-Cotton and the sixth graders are here they can now be a part of the plays here.
“It gives us a whole new pool of talent to draw from,” Shank added. “There are some really talented students here and it has been incredible to get to work with them on this.”
Swank said 75 students auditioned for the production and narrowing the cast down was not an easy task.
“We have over 30 musical numbers in the play,” Swank added. “Some of them are small selections, but it is a very difficult show to stage with that many songs.”
Swank has experience in musical theatre. In his second year of teaching, Swank graduated from Culver Stockton in 2014 with a degree in music education.
His enthusiasm and experience seems to have rubbed off on the cast based on their excitement and energy level during one of the performances Thursday morning.
“I think we all really have a good attitude about working together and we have all become a stage family,” said Unique Tatum, who plays Milky White the Cow.
“We’ve had to have a lot of patience,” added Valerie Breshears, who portrays the Wolf. “We just hope everyone will come and see the show.”
The story involves a number of classic fairy tales that co-exist as the baker and his wife go into the woods in search of some much-needed items. The baker and his wife need the items so they can obtain what their hearts most desire.
“I know the cast and crew and their families have put a lot of time and effort into the production,” S-C junior high principal Jason Curry said. “(Thursday) morning’s performances were a great opportunity for them to fine tune the production and I am looking forward to seeing the community come to watch the performances and support the students.”
The production will be presented at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Smith-Cotton Junior High auditorium. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and children 5 and under are free.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484