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Fall Festival musical to take characters and audience ‘Into the Woods’

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Cinderella’s stepsisters who are “beautiful of face but vile and black of heart” and an “obnoxious, fearless and straightforward” Red Riding Hood “with a huge appetite” are just two fairy-tale characters who populate Bethel College’s Fall Festival musical.

The Tony®-winning musical Into the Woods, with words and music by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, will run on the Krehbiel Auditorium stage in the Fine Arts Center Oct. 8-10.

Into the Woods takes the plots of several popular Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them to further consequences of the characters’ actions and quests.

Each character in the musical has a wish that leads “into the woods” – Cinderella to get advice from her dead mother about the Prince’s festival; the Baker and his wife to find the ingredients to break their curse; Red Riding Hood to see her grandmother; and Jack to sell his cow.

“All the characters in the show are searching for happiness,” said William Eash, Bethel professor of music and musical director for Into the Woods. “And they believe they know what that happiness is. And every one of those characters discovers that happiness is not what they expected it to be.”

In the course of their journey, the main characters run into each other, as well as a few others like Rapunzel, two Princes, the Wolf, the Giant and the Witch.

“Despite existing in a fairytale, the characters have problems that an audience can relate to,” said Kelsey Ortman, junior from Freeman, S.D., who plays Little Red Riding Hood. “Underneath the magical fairy-tale plot, there are everyday struggles like misunderstood relationships, economic difficulties or having a witchy neighbor.”

Act I ends with the characters believing they have accomplished “happily ever after.” Act II proves differently.

The musical, like the fairy tales it is based on, has many lessons for the audience to take away.

“I think there is not one way to say that a person will relate to this show. More – what character will they relate to?” said Joshua Powell, senior from Basehor, who plays Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf. “So much happens to every character that you find yourself either identifying with one or two of them.

“The journey each character embarks on when they go ‘into the woods’ could reflect in some way the life of an audience member,” he continued. “It really depends on where an audience member is in their personal life and what they choose to take from it.”

Eash said he thinks the lesson to take away from the play is to be wise.

“Probably the most interesting line is ‘Be careful what you wish for – is it really what you want?’” he said. “We wish for a lot of things. Sometimes those wishes are not wise. I think the musical is saying be wise in your selections, in your choices.”

Although Into the Woods places unexpected twists on the popular fairy-tale characters, most cast members said the musical is “a great show.”

“This story covers a lot,” said Audra Miller, sophomore from Hesston, who plays three characters, Cinderella’s Mother, Grandmother and the Giant. “It’s fun, exciting and clever, but very deep as well. Into the Woods is intense. I know there will be a huge amount of things to look at, as the musical is very physically and visually appealing. I also know the audience will not be disappointed.”

Cast members listed some of their “favorite parts to watch for”: the musical number “Agony,” the musical number by the two Prince Charmings, the Witch’s rap and the lessons learned at the end.

In addition to Ortman, Powell and Miller, cast members include: Sarah Pohl, junior from Moundridge, as the Witch; Ryan Goertzen, junior from Goessel, as the Narrator and Mysterious Man; Allison Yoder, sophomore from Kalona, Iowa, as Cinderella; Jordan Ortman, sophomore from Freeman, S.D., as the Baker; Kelly Reed, senior from Edinburg, Texas, as the Baker’s Wife; Clint Harris, senior from Manhattan, as Jack; Julia Miller, sophomore from Hesston, as Jack’s Mother; Julia Huxman, junior from Wichita, as Florinda; Megan Siebert, sophomore from Topeka, as Lucinda; Renee Reimer, sophomore from Sioux Falls, S.D., as Cinderella’s Stepmother; Lacey Parker, senior from Lone Tree, Iowa, as Rapunzel; Cameron Voth, junior from Goessel, as Rapunzel’s Prince; Brian Skinner, junior from Clay Center, as Cinderella’s Father; Ariane Bergen, sophomore from Moundridge, as Snow White; Nicole Eaton, junior from Dodge City, as Sleeping Beauty; and Nathan Snyder, junior from Hesston, as the Steward.

In addition to Eash as musical director, Theresa Kenneth is the technical director. Lighting is by Eric Goering, junior from McPherson, and costumes by Theresa Kenneth and Julia Miller. Timothy Shade, director of instrumental music at Bethel, is conducting the pit orchestra and serving as stage manager. The crew is made up of members of the fall Theater Practicum class.

Into the Woods will have three performances during Bethel’s Fall Festival: Friday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 9, at 3:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m., all in Krehbiel Auditorium. Ticket prices are adults $12, non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older $10, children (ages 3-12) $7. Bethel students and Kidron Bethel residents receive free admission with ID. Tickets are on sale at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (316-284-5205), or at the door.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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