Although Sam Chenoweth had never worked on “Into the Woods” before, he knew Stephen Sondheim’s musical would demand a lot from his Zionsville Community High School cast.
“This show is probably the most challenging I’ve taken on, but the students have risen to the occasion,” said Chenoweth, ZCHS’s choral and musical theater director. “We cast the show last spring and have been rehearsing ever since. I met with all the leads over the summer and then we hit the ground running this fall.
“It’s been a stressful process at times because this isn’t a title that many high schools can pull off, but we are excited about bringing it to life.”
“Into the Woods” is set for Nov. 11-13 at STAR Bank Performing Arts Center at the high school. The performances are 7 p.m. Nov. 11-12 and 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 13.
Izzy Casciani said she loves how the Witch is such a complex character.
“In an ironic way, she’s one of the most human characters in the show because of her flaws, yet she’s funny, and as an audience member, you can’t help but like her,” Casciani said. “It has been challenging to find the balance in that, but really fun as well.”
Casciani said her favorite song to perform is “Last Midnight.” But she said the song she loves the most is “No One is Alone.”
“The lyrics are so beautiful,” Casciani said. “It’s definitely a tear-jerker, especially with the amazing voices of (castmates) Jilayne (Kistner), Charlie (Steiner), Ben (Kistner) and Claire (Kauffman).”
Casciani said “Into the Woods” has always been one of her favorite musicals.
Steiner plays the role of the Baker.
“I like that the Baker only wants to protect his wife and tries everything to make her happy in the end,” Steiner said. “I also like the character arc that he has. He starts the show as a broken man, with no father or mother figure and he thinks whatever he says goes. I think that as the show goes along, he becomes a more open-hearted person, and I love getting to explore that aspect. I think the most challenging part is that I’m not like the Baker at all. I am a very cheery person, and the Baker is very much not that.
“So, I guess learning how to control who I am and flip it into his perspective has been the most challenging part.”
Steiner said his two favorite songs are “Last Midnight” and “No One is Alone.” He said “Last Midnight,” in his opinion, is the climax of the show.
“The song itself is written very well, but our Witch, Izzy Casciani, is going to knock everyone’s socks off,” he said. “It’s so fun getting to watch her character finally break down in this song. I think I like ‘No One is Alone’ for the exact opposite reason. I think it’s one of the moments we truly have a heart-to-heart song. I also love the message of the song itself. The song is about even when people leave you, there are always going to be people in the world who love and support you.”
Like Casciani, Steiner was already a fan of “Into the Woods.”
“I thought it was so cool there was a musical with a bunch of fairy tale characters that seem all happy-go-lucky and nostalgic, and then you get to the second act and, boom, everything falls apart and it’s nothing like the storybooks we read as children,” Steiner said. “I hope if people haven’t seen this they are shocked with the way everything turns out, and if people have seen it, I hope they like our own little twists we’re putting on it.”
After being limited amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Chenoweth said it’s rewarding to present a fuller musical with an audience.
“Working with a larger group, setting things on stage in the traditional way, and just building an overall production that feels normal has been helpful for myself and for the students involved,” Chenoweth said. “I’m really proud of their work and hope that we will be able to sell out the run to support their efforts.”
For tickets, visit zionsvillepac.org/events