Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 4, 2022

The Barnstormers present Into the Woods with a modern approach to a classic story

By WILLA FARRELL | May 1, 2022

intothewoods

COURTESY OF SANDY CLANCY AND CAROLINE COLVIN. 

The Barnstormers’ Into the Woods subverts preconceived expectations of Sondheim’s masterpiece through a modern setting.

Starting the weekend of April 22, the Barnstormers opened their 2022 Spring Mainstage production: Into the Woods. Directed by Brandon Bieber and produced by Courtney Carreira, Into the Woods is the club’s first live musical in three years.

Into the Woods is a musical that follows notable fairytale characters as they interact with each other in trying to solve their personal and collective dilemmas while, as the title suggests, in the woods. Though the musical begins rather cheerily, shortly into Act II the tone dramatically shifts as characters start dropping left and right. The musical becomes a lesson in morality and mortality, illuminated all the more by the contemporary approach of the Barnstormers.

Producer Courtney Carreira commented on the choice to set their production in the modern day in an interview with The News-Letter. 

“Into the Woods is commonly perceived as a fantastical adventure with fairy tale characters, but that’s not the story our production is telling,” she said.

The choice not only reveals the nuance within the text but also adds a layer of relatability. 

Many of the costumes and props reflect the present aesthetic. Instead of a “cow as white as milk,” Milky White is a bicycle. Instead of the “festival” being a traditional ball, the Prince throws a music festival. 

Other modern choices in the show further highlight the undertones of the story itself. Watching Little Red Riding Hood (freshman Liesel Arauz Vallecillo) be pursued by the Wolf (freshman Ander Diez) dressed not as a carnivorous animal but simply as an ordinary man emphasizes the predatory nature and power imbalance in the song “Hello, Little Girl.” Similarly, having the villainous giant be not a literal giant but instead a woman with a megaphone (sophomore Isabella Madruga) spreading propaganda takes this common enemy from a mythical being to an organized political group.

Freshman Joelie Garcia also noted the modern setting in an interview with The News-Letter.

“In the beginning, we are all just normal people who are then pulled into the story with the once upon a time,“ she said. “Taking these remarkably famous characters and turning them into simply normal people is what makes this production so striking and original.”

On April 23, the entire cast put on a high-energy performance fronted by leading man and graduate student Elliott Petrilla. Petrilla wowed as the Baker with his beautiful voice and realistic acting. Petrilla perfectly balanced the theatricality and sincerity required for a character like the Baker, delivering a both heartwarming and heartbreaking performance. His song, “No More,“ was particularly breathtaking, as he showcased the full range of his vocal and emotional ability.

The fan-favorite moments of the night were undeniably “Agony” and “Agony (Reprise),” performed by Cinderella’s Prince (Diez) and Rapunzel’s Prince (senior Matthew Bacon). The comedic chemistry between these two paired with their characters’ absurd bravado had audiences laughing throughout not only these two songs but also all of their appearances together. In a play so disguisedly dark, the Princes successfully delivered a surplus of comic relief.

Other highlights include “It Takes Two,” featuring junior Caroline Colvin as the Baker’s Wife along with Petrilla in an energetic and endearing number, and Parts One and Two of the emotional “No One is Alone,” which feature Arauz Vallecillo, Garcia, Petrilla and junior Lily Wilson as Cinderella. Throughout all of their scenes together, Arauz Vallecillo and Garcia maintained incredible chemistry and played these young children with astounding authenticity, despite both being college-aged.

The modern perspective of Into the Woods requires some suspension of disbelief, but welcoming this novel perspective opens doors to the possible new interpretations of this important piece of theatre. 

Despite being “non-literal,” these woods are real. Though every person may experience these metaphorical woods differently, this production by the Barnstormers demonstrates them in a unique light.

Colvin hopes that audience members were impacted by the performance. 

“Great art often means something different to each person who encounters it, and I hope Into the Woods meets each audience member at their current stage of life,“ she said.

The final performance of Into the Woods will take place on May 1.

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