Darby High School’s music department is presenting “Into the Woods,” in the Darby Junior High Gym, at 7 p.m., March 3 and 4.
It may be the first musical ever done in Darby.
Certainly, it is Darby music educator Alex Petrusaitis’ first production of a musical.
Petrusaitis said it was important to him to get advice from experienced musical producers.
“I wanted to provide the opportunity for the students at Darby Schools to participate in a musical,” he said. “Some of the advice was ‘don’t go too big, keep things simple and less is more.’”
So, Petrusaitis selected the multiple-part challenging musical “Into the Woods.”
“Yeah, that could have been thought out more, it may have been my creative side,” he said.
“I thought we just want to do this interesting story with a lot of characters that is fun. After getting the scripts, I realized it is more complicated. But my students are up for it.”
Petrusaitis received advice from music educators in Hamilton and Frenchtown to order from Broadway Junior Collection.
“The main selling point for me is you get to keep the scripts and all the music comes on a CD,” he said. “We don’t have to hire musicians even though that would be amazing to do eventually. For us, right now, for our first one, it is very convenient to have it on one CD. You can purchase rehearsal CDs with performers singing all the songs to send home with the kids so they can go home and practice.”
Petrusaitis held auditions opening the performance opportunity to multiple grade levels to fill the variety of characters and their ages.
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“We had to be creative with some of them,” he said. “Our princes, Cinderella’s prince and Rapunzel’s prince, are shorter than the princesses but they have a lot of energy and character and they are very fun to watch. They ham it up on stage and they get into the roles.”
Petrusaitis said the best piece of advice he received is to sell the play as a story and bring the characters to life.
“All the actors and actresses bring the characters to life in their own unique way,” he said. “It is definitely the first musical done in Darby for a while and I think the audience will be excited to see their friends, their kids and classmates on stage performing.”
Petrusaitis said the biggest challenge has been finding rehearsal space.
“We have a gymnasium with a stage cut out into the wall,” he said. “Every season there is some sports team in there and the space is used for gym classes. Most of our rehearsals take place in the music room. Next year we hope to have choir at a time where there is no class in the gym. I call the ideal time ‘the goldilocks zone’ when no one is in there.”
The music room served as the rehearsal stage and there were a few opportunities to be on the actual stage.
Petrusaitis said most of the students in his music classes are involved in the production as actors and production crew. Many of the props and costumes are on loan from the Hamilton Playhouse.
The “Into the Woods” cast includes: Narrator, Annie Rennaker; Baker, Aaron Hansen; Baker's Wife, Lily Heiland; Cinderella, Shianne Kauk; Cinderella's Mother, Kassidy Anderson; Cinderella's Step Mother, Rio Norton; Cinderella's Father, Bradley Madsen; Florinda, Sophia Delvo; Lucinda, Rylee Nelson; Cinderella's Prince, Gus Harrell; Jack, Clay Rouse; Jack's Mother, Kayla Lambert; Milky-White, Nehiya Jennings; Witch, Isabella Campbell; Little Red Riding Hood, Sandra Paul; Granny, Elsa Podesta; Mysterious Man, Rio Norton; Rapunzel, Jackie Sheets; Rapunzel's Prince, Cullen Duggan; Steward, Samantha Shull; and the Wolf played by Mary Browning.
The crew includes: property master, Caitlyn Smith; make up by Emma Linton and Joslyn Grahm; stage director, Breanna Nelson; and sound by Savannagh Gabbert.
“Parents, family, and friends are going to love to see the Darby students on stage performing in a musical, which to my knowledge, has not happened in a long time,” Petrusaitis said.
You can see Darby High School’s presentation of “Into the Woods,” at the Darby Junior High Gym, 7 p.m. on March 3 and 4. Tickets cost $6 for adults, $4 for children and students and can be purchased at the door at Darby School 209 School Drive.