After navigating through Georgetown University’s Poulton Hall, I arrived at Stage III, the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society’s theater, to see the cast of “Into the Woods” huddled in a circle. They jumped up and down, repeatedly chanting, “I’m in the woods, you’re in the woods, yeah!” to motivate each other before the show.
The clear offstage camaraderie among the cast members manifested itself in their vibrant onstage relationships, and their portrayals of the emotional complexity of the characters made the story feel more real than fantastical. While cast members’ individual performances were incredible, their natural chemistry made the show even more impactful.
Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and Tony Award-winning playwright James Lapine created “Into the Woods,” which premiered in 1986. The musical also won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album in 2022 for its recent Broadway revival.
In the first act, the narrator introduces characters from classic fairytale stories: Cinderella, Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk,” Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. The story, however, centers around a baker and his wife, who want to grow their family despite a witch’s curse.
The witch tasks the couple with venturing into the forest to collect a series of fairytale items to break the curse. When the first half ends, all of the characters are overjoyed with their lives — but the second act changes everything, when a giant with murderous intent arrives.
Fairytale characters often tend to be one-dimensional and fail to represent the human experience — they always get their happy ending. “Into the Woods” inherently rises above such simplicities, and each actor in Georgetown’s production went a step further to ensure their characters represented a spectrum of emotions, particularly in their interactions with other characters.
Sam Kehoe (CAS ’23) and Ava Foster (CAS ’23), who played the baker and baker’s wife, respectively, realistically emulated a married couple. The pair naturally volleyed back and forth with their banter and bickering, and in a happier scene, their graceful ballroom dancing was mesmerizing to watch, as they held each other’s gaze and executed some impressive footwork.
Furthermore, the dynamic between Jack, Jack’s mother and Milky White (Jack’s cow) resembled a real family — specifically, the dynamic of a mother who is stressed about her son’s future.
Emma Erdoes (SFS ’25), who played Jack’s mother, beautifully balanced the frustration and compassion of a single mother. In her interactions with Jack, played by Shakeer Hood (CAS ’24), Erdoes would pinch Hood’s cheek or put her hand on his shoulders while sternly staring into his eyes. Even in her interactions with other characters, Erdoes threw herself to the ground or cried uncontrollably to demonstrate the extremes to which a mother would go to protect her child.
Sean Rafferty’s (CAS ’26) interpretation of Milky White also deserves praise, as he utilized vivid facial expressions and varying postures to embrace his onstage presence despite not having any lines.
But it was the performance of Courtenay Kim-White (CAS ’24) as the witch that stood out most. Kim-White’s voice was powerful and clear during the ballads, but the juxtaposition of her frightening run-ins with the baker and his wife and her gentler interactions with Rapunzel, played by Roshni Powers (SFS ’26), made her rendition especially noteworthy.
Kim-White would hunch over and make her hands quiver to intimidate the baker and his wife. Contrastly, Kim-White revealed a deeper misery and vulnerability as she transitioned into being the protective mother of Rapunzel.
Not only did director Orly Salik (CAS ’23) and producer Drew Lent (CAS ’25) craft a spectacular cast, they also created an impressive set that actively aided in deepening the ties between characters, rather than serving as a mere backdrop. The set, designed by Han Miller (CAS ’23), featured a grand tree in the center with leaves made of book pages and a trunk covered in lanterns that were removed and replaced throughout the show, adding light and visual variety to match the ever-shifting intercharacter dynamics.
The orchestra also helped push the story along and connect the characters. While the piano and strings did overpower the actors’ voices at times, the live music set the tone for each scene and provided the groundwork for characters to shape their reactions and emotions.
Mask and Bauble’s production of “Into the Woods” featured not only brilliant performances and engaging characters, but also an emphasis upon building and nurturing meaningful relationships. This camaraderie-focused production serves as an important reminder for all of us: although we might not always get our “happy endings,” our relationships with others are what make our lives meaningful.
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