Going deep ‘Into the Woods’ 

Rappahannock County High School’s Drama Club is currently deep in rehearsals and the pre-production phase of its spring musical, “Into the Woods.” This full-length musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is set to hit the RCHS auditorium stage Saturday night, April 28, with a Sunday matinee the next day.

The process of perfecting a musical is a long and strenuous one which started at the beginning of the school year. The play was selected at the end of September, announced in October and cast in December. Now, however, it’s serious: Rehearsals are typically every day, sets are being built and lighting issues are being solved – all the sticky details.

Fourth-year English and acting teacher Russell Paulette has high expectations for the musical. “It’s only the biggest thing ever in the history of ever,” he says, in a serious way that makes his words seem less like exaggeration and more like truth. At two and a half hours, “Into the Woods” is the first full-length musical the school has attempted. According to Paulette, it is about the same level of difficulty as the Drama Club’s last two projects combined.

Longer and more elaborate than past productions, Paulette says “Into the Woods” is also a much more emotionally challenging show than, for example, last spring’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The premise brings such familiar fairy tale characters as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood together, united in a common goal and eventual challenge, as each heads into the woods to search for their happily-ever-afters but finds unexpected conflicts.

Though the story and content are mostly family-oriented, Paulette warns that the plot thickens in the second act and things get heavy. While everyone is encouraged to come out and watch the story unfold, there is a concern that very young children might not be able to keep up with the maturity level.

“Into the Woods” is a big project for the Drama Club, but many other school organizations are also involved. The high school band and chorus are helping bring music onto the stage with the actors. Paulette is also looking for ways to involve other groups, including the horticulture program that has helped in the past. He calls the spring play “a big party that drama club throws, [and] anybody else who can come to the party is invited.”

There are plans underway for a few fundraisers to help pay for the production, including a coffee house, and donations are welcome from community members who want to help out the local thespians, as well as from volunteers who can spare a few hours and pick up a paint brush or a hammer and bring the woods to life.

The cast, ranging from freshmen to seniors, returning actors and first-timers, are all extremely energetic about the upcoming production and the process. Senior Tessa Crews, who is set to be Little Red Riding Hood, said “I’m really glad that we got started early because it’s a huge production. I’m excited and scared, it’s my first musical.”

The cast prepares almost every day in different ways, including lines rehearsals and chorus rehearsals, the latter led by new chorus teacher and assistant band director Rachel Siegfried.

Though there is still a tremendous way to go, the cast, crew and directors all talk with raw excitement about the play, and are eager for the chance to show off their hard work. “It has literally always been one of my favorites,” said director Paulette, “and it means a lot to me to put this on and share it with the community and cast.”

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