WESTFIELD, NJ —The Westfield High School Theatre Department will tackle Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods” next Thursday, Friday and Saturday (March 11,12 and 13).

The show follows the journey of a childless baker (Tony Peer) who, along with his wife (Jesse Zimmermann), voyages into the woods to break an evil spell cast upon him by a witch (Madeline Hudelson). Along the way, the couple encounters Rapunzel (Kimmi Zimmermann), Cinderella (Madeleine Rosenthal) and her prince (Frank Guerriero), Jack (of Beanstalk fame) (Jack Ritter), Little Red Riding Hood (Emma Stern) and others, each of whom has a personal agenda and reason for being in the woods.

The play takes traditional, well-known fairy tale characters and adds a new layer of complexity and depth.

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Ritter said that the unique twists on these familiar characters and the relatability of the musical as a whole are some of the main reasons people should come to see it.

“The show taps into a bunch of things that people are all very familiar with,” Ritter said. “Everybody knows Jack and the Beanstalk. Everybody knows Little Red Riding Hood. Everybody’s familiar with these tales. And I think that it’s really interesting for people to see this show because it takes those tales and manipulates them in a way that becomes really relatable in today’s world.”

The play is also rich in symbols, according to Rosenthal.

“‘Into the Woods’ is very multidimensional,” the Cinderella actress said. “There’re so many symbols and messages that we’re responsible to convey to the audience.”

According to Hudelson, who plays the witch, the wide range of characters allows everyone in the audience to connect with the performance.

“I think everyone really identifies with something or someone in that show because it just deals with so many different types of people in such a real way,” Hudelson said. “It’s impossible not to relate to it if you’re paying attention.”

Hudelson said that the cast has to live up to incredibly high expectations.

“The amount of hype about this show is crazy,” Hudelson said. “Since before we started, people have been saying how amazing it’s going to be.”

“Yeah we’re basically the ‘Hamilton’ of central New Jersey high school theater,” Guerriero (Cinderella’s Prince) joked.

Director Daniel Devlin said that ‘Into the Woods’ is one of his favorite shows. However, it does bring with it myriad challenges for the cast and crew to overcome.

According to Devlin, actors have to interact with an extremely difficult set arrangement and time their acting with subtle music cues. In his eyes, however, the tricky production is a wonderful learning opportunity for the students.

“I tell them every single day that you’re going to find something that’s not working, and that’s one of the most important things about doing theater in high school. It teaches you that you never know the answers and that you have to problem-solve,” Devlin said. “You can’t look to anyone else because when the curtain opens, you’re there by yourself and you have to know how to fix stuff that’s going to happen.”

Despite the obstacles, according to Guerriero, the cast adores being a part of such this production.

“We fell in love with it,” Guerriero said. “It means so much to us.”

Other featured cast members are Julian Mazzola as the Narrator; Maggie Bergin as Jack’s mother; Abby Connolly as Cinderella’s Stepmother; Lauren Triarsi and Abbie Painter as Cinderella’s stepsisters; Emma Stern as Little Red Riding Hood; Alex Cestero as Cinderella’s father; Sydney Stewart as Cinderella’s mother; Max Wasilewski as The Mysterious Man; Jonathan Saminski as Rapunzel’s Prince; Amanda DePinto as Granny; Alex Frisch as Steward; Catie Barry as the Giant; Emma Shakal as Snow White and Meagan O’Connell as Sleeping Beauty.

Members of the show’s ensemble play townspeople. They are: Noah Bram, Jack Ciarrocca, Duncan Cook, Alan Fang, Charlotte Fountain-Jardim, Alison Jaruzelski, Victoria Napolitano, Noah Plotkin, Lucy Ritter and Abby Rothenberg.

In addition to the on-stage talent, WHS students play a large role behind the scenes in “Into the Woods,” working on the production’s costumes, makeup, props, lighting, sound and designing and building the set.

All shows will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $14 each online at whstd.booktix.com or at the door. Advance purchases are recommended, as WHS spring musicals often sell out. Any tickets not sold in advance will be available at the door. All tickets are reserved seating.

All performances will be held in the auditorium of Westfield High School, located at 550 Dorian Road.

Sarah Boyle is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.