Youth Ambassadors to take audiences ‘Into the Woods’

You never know what you may find when you venture “Into the Woods.”

In composer Stephen Sondheim’s musical journey, you’ll follow fairy tale characters including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack (of beanstalk fame) as they face new adventures.

The Springfield Art Council Youth Arts Ambassadors’ first production, “Into the Woods Jr.,” will be performed on Friday and Saturday.

Appropriately, it will be presented at the place nicknamed “The little school in the woods,” Ridgewood School, 2420 St. Paris Pike.

Krissy Hartman, arts education specialist and the show’s director, said students had an active role in selecting the title and in bringing “Into the Woods Jr.” to life.

“We wanted to try something popular the kids would be familiar with for this first production,” she said. “A lot knew the movie version. We figured if we were going to do it let’s do it big.”

The junior version varies somewhat from the regular stage and film presentations, with little dialogue as the story is driven by singing.

The production, which began rehearsals in early January, has 20 actors and 15 production personnel, with Ambassador participants from fifth grade through high school seniors.

Hartman said there have been challenges, to be expected with a first production, such as getting the music down. But she’s impressed with the way the students have stepped up to make it happen, from working on costumes to helping create the sets.

“It’s amazing, especially as this is a show without an ensemble. They’ve all put their heart and soul into it,” she said.

Anna Bielawski, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, is getting experience on both sides of the stage. Not only is she playing Rapunzel, she’s the assistant music director.

Bielawski admitted to not knowing what to expect and was shocked to find herself in charge during several rehearsals when the adult music director couldn’t attend.

“I was surprised how much respect the cast had for me,” she said. “I had to teach them a lot of the music and it’s been fun.

“Just because you’re younger than anyone else doesn’t mean they won’t listen to you.”

Hartman said this version of “Into the Woods” is family-friendly with a happy ending and will include magical aspects and special effects.

“For anyone who enjoys musicals, this is it,” she said.

Tickets are available at the Springfield Arts Council office, 117 S. Fountain Ave. Proceeds will go to future Youth Arts Ambassadors projects.

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