KEARNEY — If you’ve ever read the story of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood or Jack and the Beanstalk, you’ll be familiar with the characters of “Into the Woods.”
But be prepared for a story that diverges from the fairy tales you grew up reading.
“What’s unique about this show is that every role isn’t your typical fairy-tale character,” said Jackie VonAschwege, who plays Cinderella. “They’re all real people that struggle with the hard truths of reality so it’s easier to relate to them.”
This weekend, Kearney High School students will take on the surprisingly relatable roles of princes, ugly stepsisters, a witch and even a milking cow during their performances of “Into the Woods.” The show opens tonight and runs through Sunday.
Following a variety of different characters and storylines, the musical brings everyone together in a common setting: the forest.
The show even opens with a song introducing the characters and outlining all their various reasons to go “Into the Woods.”
However simple this theme may seem, the music, created by Stephen Sondheim, actually is far more complicated.
“The music has been the biggest challenge with, ‘Into The Woods,’” said senior Drew Sinnard, who plays the baker. “We started rehearsals two weeks before we usually do just so we could spend that extra time on it.”
Multiple characters get the chance to show off their vocal abilities with solos in the show, but there are plenty of group numbers to go along with them, resulting in a musical heavy on the music.
Even with so many orchestrations to work through, the student actors still found time to dive into character development, according to the show’s leads.
Though the role stretched her as a performer, senior Grace Clark said she has loved playing the baker’s wife.
“During the first act, (the baker’s wife) knows what she wants and what to do to to get it. However, during second act, she has no idea what to do. She is indecisive and the only thing she is certain about is how much she loves her son,” Clark described.
Cursed by a witch, Clark and Sinnard’s characters spend the first act trying to break their spell of infertility and find themselves interacting with all sorts of other fairy-tale characters along the way. The second act, though, the characters have to band together to solve a larger problem.
While the baker and his wife are the most down-to-earth characters in “Into the Woods,” most of the roles still are grounded in reality. Senior Jessica Kolbo says that even with all the magical and larger-than-life characters, the audience still will find themselves identifying with the people on stage.
“I love the way that these gruesome fairy tales become relatable,” said the senior who plays the witch. “They live in a fantasy, yet the characters seem like people I know and people like myself because they are imperfect, they make mistakes daily, they long for things they cannot have and they just try to do their best for whatever it’s worth.”
Many of the characters end up dealing with the challenge of parenthood, a theme the actors can convey to the audience.
“I think the audience will connect with the idea of protecting your children,” Clark said. “Parents will do absolutely anything to protect their children. I believe the theme of the show is to be careful what you say around children because they will listen, learn and act. They often learn from their parents and act the same. We have to be careful what we say and do around them because they will copy.”