“Into the Woods” musical on stage at Sterling College

Three theatre students acting on stage
Sunday, March 24, 2024

"Once upon a time…” So begins the world’s best-loved stories. That phrase also opens the popular musical Into the Woods which will be presented by Sterling College Music Theatre on Friday and Saturday, April 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 14 in Culbertson Auditorium on the college campus. 

Unlike favorite fairy tales, Into the Woods does not end in “Happily Ever After.”  Written by revered Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and playwright James Lapine. Their collaboration resulted in the landmark musical that weaves characters from fairy tales together with new material to take audiences beyond the traditional "Happily Ever After."

Sondheim, who wrote such classics as Company, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd, among others, died in November of 2021. Into the Woods is easily his most frequently produced work and perhaps his most accessible.

This is the third time Sterling College Theatre has produced the now classic show. The first was in 1990, just three years after the show’s Broadway debut and the second was in 2010. Both productions were produced by the long-time Sterling College Theatre faculty Gordon and Diane Kling. 

Into the Woods is a mash-up of familiar fairy tales, but with a twist. We have Cinderella with her handsome prince and missing shoe, Jack and his beanstalk that leads to a kingdom of giants, Rapunzel with her unusually long and strong hair, and a little girl in a red cape going to visit her Granny. Tying these stories together is a Baker and his Wife, who long to have children but were cursed by their neighbor, who happens to be a witch. 

The witch promises to reverse the curse if the couple completes a series of tasks, which will allow her to become the beautiful young witch she once was. Everyone heads into the woods where their stories intersect. At the end of the first act, everyone seems to have accomplished their "happily ever after." 

But the second act shows what happens next. Happiness is complicated, actions have consequences, and things are not always what they seem. It's a little like growing up; as children we're told these fairy tales, but when we grow up, we learn that life is not like fairy tales, it's complicated and messy, and "sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood." But the good news is, "no one is alone," not even witches and giants. 

The audience is drawn in by the classic, familiar, and seemingly simple stories. But then they find that the show is actually surprisingly complex, with themes of good and evil, right and wrong, the consequences of choices, self-interest vs. the common good, and what happens when the fairy tale subsides to reality. It also contains some of Sondheim's most playfully clever lyrics and singable melodies such as "Children Will Listen" and "No One is Alone." 

The cast of 18 for the new Sterling College Music Theatre production of Sondheim’s now classic show is being directed by music faculty member Marsia Callan. Sophomore Noah Svaty is designing both the set and lighting for the show – in addition to playing the Baker. Senior Rachel Thomson who is playing the Witch is also choreographing the show. 

Tickets for Into the Woods are $15 for adults and $5 for students and are available online at www.sterling.edu/arts or at the door before each performance. 

Sterling College is a Christ-centered, four-year college located in Sterling, Kansas, with a mission to develop creative and thoughtful leaders who understand a maturing Christian faith. For more information, visit www.sterling.edu.