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Mariemont High School's INTO THE WOODS

Updated: Mar 5

Review by Katie Berich, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team

Under the midnight moon, familiar storybook characters confront love and loss on their venture through a lush forest. Mariemont High School’s Into the Woods takes audiences on a whirlwind journey, with one binding message: “wishes come true, not free.”

Into the Woods is the second collaboration between prolific Broadway duo Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The serio-comedic musical weaves together the stories of fairytale characters who all venture into the woods to fulfill their deepest desires. A childless baker and his wife, guided by a witch's curse, join the group, seeking to break the spell by procuring magical items. As their paths converge, the characters grapple with moral dilemmas, face their fears, and confront the consequences of their actions. The forest serves as a metaphorical backdrop for their journey of self-discovery, where they ultimately learn the true meaning of family and sacrifice.

Producing Into the Woods is no easy task, due in part to its difficult score and intricate plot, but Mariemont put on a show that sparkled with authenticity. Leading and featured actors alike anchored the fantastical plot with grounded, dynamic performances. Technical aspects brought the magic of Into the Woods to life, notably using sound effects and puppetry to immerse the audience in the mystical setting. Nuanced acting choices and intricate designs were key to the show’s success.

Ellie Haynes tackled the role of Baker’s Wife, performing difficult and fast music with ease. Balancing the Haynes’ unrelenting determination was Charlie Perkins, who played the Baker. Perkins did an excellent job portraying the Baker’s fear of failure as he navigates the woods, and later, fatherhood. Lilli Hoel captured the complex nature of the Witch, showing her antagonistic demeanor in group numbers like “Last Midnight,” but her softer, wounded side in “Witch’s Lament.”

Providing much needed balance between drama and comedy were Jonathan Hester and Sam Parker as Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince, respectively. The pair were hilarious in their use of facial expressions and physical acting, and serenaded the audience with robust vocals in their show-stopping rendition of “Agony.”

Puppeteers Elliot McClish<cq> and Micah Mahadevan gave Milky White a solemn, pouty nature with their expressive operation of the puppet. Other members of Stage Crew maintained masterful operation and timing of set changes throughout the show, even dropping items such as confetti from a catwalk. Sound (Cass Steiner and crew) not only supplemented the show with curated side effects, but overcame significant challenges with mics, including a mic breaking mid-show. Ellie Urshel and Grace Flerlage went above and beyond in their role as Publicity heads, going as far as organizing performances for elementary students to promote their show.

The hard work and dedication of cast and crew culminated in a truly magical production of Into the Woods. As the final chords of the Into the Woods fade, the feeling of enchantment lingers, leaving audiences spellbound.

Review by Eddie Pierson, LaSalle High School Critic Team

Once upon a time in a far-off kingdom, Mariemont High School took audiences on a journey of many a twist, turn, witch, prince, and tragedy as they were transported into the dangerous woods along with a crew of complex characters.

First hitting Broadway in November of 1987, the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine created the spellbinding Into the Woods. With an intense score and engaging fast-paced lyrics, the musical quickly became a classic and has in recent years been revived in New York and adapted into a feature film. The show’s script intertwines the familiar stories of multiple Brother Grimm fairytale characters, ranging from Cinderella to Little Red Ridinghood, as they pursue their wishes in the mysterious, unpredictable world of the woods.

Mariemont’s production of Into the Woods combined a whimsical woodland set, an outstanding onstage orchestra, an engaging light and sound design, and a group of talented performers to arbitrarily bring the work of Sondheim and Lapine to life.

Leading the tale’s plot and journey in the woods was Charlie Perkins and Ellie Haynes as the Baker and the Baker’s Wife respectively. Both individuals portrayed their characters with sincerity and depth. Haynes’s performance as the Baker’s Wife was earnest and expressive, complete with flawless vocals as shown in standout numbers “It Takes Two” and “Moments in the Woods." Perkins also displayed a wide range of emotion throughout the show’s entirety through his anger in tense arguments with Haynes and his melancholy in numbers such as “No More."

Lilli Hoel stood as a consistent antagonist to Perkins and Haynes in her role as the Witch, foiling their plans on multiple occasions in a performance that casted a spell on audiences. From the moment Hoel took to the stage, the audience was entranced by her vivacious presence and witch-like voice. Hoel’s impressive rendition of the show-stopping “Last Midnight” exhibited her vocal prowess through powerful belts and sustained notes all while maintaining the vivid demeanor of her character. Jonathan Hester and Sam Parker also stole the audience’s attention as they hilariously galloped throughout the theater as Cinderella and Rapuenzel’s princes. The comedic workings of Hester and Parker brought a remarkable levity in their delivery of the number “Agony” that left audiences chuckling at their exaggerated physicality.

Mariemont’s excellent presentation of the beloved story could not have been done without the technical aspects at work in the production. Stage crew led by August Hagen played an integral role to the story's telling as crew members operated many puppets and props on stage, most notably including Jack’s adored cow Milky White. Sound was also of the utmost importance in a show with a complex score requiring many voices to be heard. Despite some difficulties, Cass Steiner and crew were able to impressively adapt and ensure all performers were audible.

Mariemont’s magical company led audiences into the woods, then out of the woods, and ultimately home before dark- leaving them wishing more than life to begin upon the journey once again.

Review by Nyla Shahanavaz, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team

A cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, some hair as yellow as corn, a slipper as pure as gold, and a journey as dangerous as it could be: Mariemont journeys Into The Woods with excellent execution.

Into the Woods is a clever intertwining of countless classic fairy tales, creating a haunting and heartfelt story that has graced the Broadway stages three times. Originally composed by Stephen Sondheim and with the book written by James Lapine, the musical follows the journey of a humble baker and his wife as they seek to fulfill their wish to have a child - after being cursed by a witch. As they wander into the woods, attempting to rid the Witch’s curse, their story becomes entangled with those of Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella.

The cast of Mariemont’s Into the Woods effortlessly overcame the difficulties of Sondheim’s composition. Their exceptional vocal expertise shone brightly, elevating the performance. The elaborate hair and makeup designs played a pivotal role in this production, simplifying the complex plot and showcasing the personality of the characters.

Charlie Perkins presented the humble voice and actions of the Baker while conveying a strong presence in the overall performance. Alongside Ellie Haynes, the two formed a strong pair, exhibiting a moving performance. Perkins’ and Haynes’ strong voices contradicted their emotionally charged rendition of “It Takes Two," providing the audience with a layer of raw hope and perseverance. Lilli Hoel as the Witch dominated the stage with an incredibly demonstrated depth of character. Hoel’s performance of “The Last Midnight” displayed her powerful voice, encapsulating both the fierceness and vulnerability of the Witch. Hoel was able to demonstrate the small complexities of the Witch such as her special fondness for Rapunzel through vivid and expressive movement.

Jonathan Hester(Cinderella’s Prince) and Sam Parker(Rapunzel’s Prince) together enchanted the stage with a delightful touch of humor. Their rendition of “Agony” was beautifully voiced and left the audience tearing with laughter. Hester and Parker worked wonderfully together, complementing, balancing, and supporting each other’s performance flawlessly.

Hair and Makeup led by Jade Beck and Maddy Urton demonstrated great talent and flawless execution with the Witch’s appearance. Her transformation from ugly to beautiful truly stunned the audience with the great execution of dark makeup and accompanying hair.

Mariemont High School performed an incredible show displaying important themes of childhood innocence and constant perseverance. They should be incredibly proud of their production of Into the Woods.

Excerpts From Other Top Reviews

"The crew highlighted the actors' performance, enhancing the quality of the entire production. Led by August Hagen and Tyler Harden, stage crew did an exceptional job characterizing puppets such as Milky White and Cinderella’s Birds, as well as engineering a mechanism through the catwalk to create a fly system. Jade Beck and Maddy Urton made sure no detail went unnoticed in their wonderful hair and makeup design. From application of wrinkles and gray hair spray for aged characters to consistent color palettes within connected characters, each detail was expertly executed."

-Lizzy Rebber, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team

"Ellie Haynes’ portrayal of the Baker’s Wife was well-rounded and captivating. Through varied vocal tones and facial expressions she represented the many sides of her character- a loving wife, a woman determined to get what she wants, someone longing for more in life. Lilli Hoel’s vocal prowess was on full display as she played the Witch. Her powerful belting in numbers like the maniacal 'Last Midnight' contrasted the soft, emotional tone she used to sing about her adopted daughter Rapunzel in such songs as 'Witch’s Lament,' giving the character depth and dynamicity."

-Catherine Foster, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team

"In such a grim show, Grace Flerlage provided comic relief as Little Red Ridinghood. Flerlage encapsulated Little Red Ridinghood’s childish personality with many well-timed snarky remarks to other characters, but also tender moments with Cinderella in 'No One is Alone.' Also in comedic roles, Jonathan Hester and Sam Parker, as Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince respectively, brightened the stage with their antics. From miming horse-galloping to lamenting about their princesses, these two were always entertaining to watch."

-Kendall Davis, Mason High School Critic Team

"The lighting, headed by Curtis Buswell and sound, lead by Cass Steiner was very deliberate and supportive in transporting the audience into the tale. The sound effects consisting of the cow swallowing the items and the Baker transferring the beans into Jack’s hands as well the lighting color changes and spotlights were just another added layer in the calculated decisions of Mariemont High School."

-Brooke Spurlock, Mason High School Critic Team

"Claire Long’s voice as Cinderella was as shining and blue as her dress in 'On the Steps of the Palace.' She upheld a clear, controlled vibrato that made her voice that of a songbird. Grace Ferlage’s performance was animated and displayed Little Red Ridinghood’s change from innocence to toughness after the incident with the wolf. Her performance and voice were bright and squeaky in songs like 'I Know Things Now' and 'Your Fault,' presenting the audience with a childlike persona."

-Thea Godel, Taylor High School Critic Team

"One actor who fully committed to her role as the Witch, was Lilli Hoel. Accompanying her impeccable vocal inflection, Hoel masterfully followed the complex time signatures and intricate rhyme schemes for the complete duration of the show. Her confidence and compelling stage presence made her performance as mesmerizing as a witch’s charm."

-Alexandra Hess, Campbell County Critic Team

"Mariemont High School took audiences on a tragic, heartwarming, and humorous journey through the woods. Those who remain know that fairytale is make-believe and the twists and turns along the path were just the trials faced in life. With a wonderful performance of Into the Woods at Mariemont High School, performers and audience members alike emerge from the treeline knowing 'No One Is Alone.'"

-Justin Hughes, Taylor High School Critic Team

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