Let’s Go into the Woods at Cranford High School


Adrianna Pizutta, Writer

“Into the Woods” is not an unknown show-it is a renowned classic, loved by all generations, beautifully written by the late Stephen Sondheim. On March 10-12, Cranford High School proudly paid tribute to the astonishing show and presented their portrayal of the beloved production- and without disappointment it lived up to the town’s extreme expectations. 

The cast took the audience on an adventure, displaying the timeless piece that follows a baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. The baker and his wife learn they are unable to have a child due to a witches’ curse, and set out on a journey- into the woods– to break the spell. As their wishes are granted, disastrous events begin to occur and each character is left to ponder at what cost do their wishes come true. 

As the curtain opens, three houses are revealed and the 12 minute prologue begins to play. Cinderella (played by Ella Bradley) leads with the iconic line “I wish,” as the song progresses, the audience gets a deeper look at what each character wishes and wants. The baker (played by Ari Barmak) starts his journey into the woods as he crosses paths with Jack, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, the stepfamily, and many more Brothers Grimm characters as he tries to break the curse.

By the end of Act One, all is restored. Cinderella got her prince, the Baker and his wife have their child, and Jack is rich and reunited with his cow. The audience is left with a smile upon their face as the narrator details the joy that is brought upon the characters, but quickly a dark twist occurs as they are haunted by the consequences of their wishes. A haunting lament sung by the witch, played by Ellie Dillon, reminds the audience of the show’s “not so happily ever after” as characters begin to die and become painstakingly greedy. 

The last number details the lessons learned upon the journey- into the woods and out of the woods– stating to be careful what you wish for as the cast dances across the stage.

The show ends with one last magnificent detail as Ella Bradley gracefully faces the audience and sings one last “I wish” before the lights black out. The audience erupted with applause- leaving them with tears in their eyes and a new take on life. Ella proved night after night how relevant and touching the modern day classic truly is. 

Once the curtain closed, and the final bows were complete,there was no question why Cranford High School’s Performing Arts program is so highly praised. From the set, to the costumes, to the tech, and of course the actors, the talent was incredibly high in each category. Yet again proving year after year, Cranford High School knows how to put on a show- an amazing show. 

As I re-entered the audience after the performance each night it was evident that everyone was touched by the admirable work of the Cranford High School students. Alumni graced the audience and parents lined up to take pictures of their children. Cranford Performing Arts has always been a tight knit community- and the show was a reminder of the incredible human connection that can come from art- especially at Cranford High School. 

Walking away from the show it’s clear why Michelle Massa chose to pick it. The show is enchanting and leaves the audience with a heavy heart. Within her director’s note she explains, “I first fell in love with Stephen Sondheim’s poetic music and poignant lyrics when I saw the show on Broadway, and when combined with its beautiful rich story it seemed a very fitting spring musical for Cranford High School.” She chose an iconic and classic piece to break in the new auditorium after a year and a half hiatus- stunning the residents of Cranford year after year again. Throughout the audience there were whispers of “wow, she truly has outdone herself again” and “yet again incredible… how will she live up to that next year?”

To complement the directing, Anthony Rafainello also played a huge part in the show’s success with his outstanding musical direction. His dedication and devotion was noted by many of the performers as they all detailed his enthusiasm and love for the show. Many of the performers expressed that many of their fondest memories within the show revolved around Mr. Raf and the joy he brings to the art. Additionally, all the performers thanked him for the success he led them to with all their complex musical questions. 

But this was no 2-person show- A lot of pressure was placed upon the cast, having the revival just close on Broadway and the responsibility to take on such well known roles. The stress of working on such an incredibly difficult musical piece kept many of the performers up at night and helped them gain the trust and knowledge to put together such an outstanding show. It was evident that the late night rehearsals and tech Sunday’s were worth the struggle and battles when the audience erupted in applause every night. The audience was so in awe, that they even began to clap throughout the prologue. The performance received rave reviews and many stated that they would be returning to see the show again before it closed. 

Continuously throughout rehearsals, Massa explained to the cast and crew how complex the show is and the honor it is to be able to perform such a show, which seemed to carry through the performance as many performers teared up closing night. This wasn’t Massa’s first time directing Into the Woods, and I doubt it will be her last since she continuously brings something new to the table each time she redirects it. 

Many of the members of Cranford Performing Arts were previously Sondheim fans, and throughout performing the show either their love and admiration for the late Stephen Sondheim grew or they found a new appreciation and love for the art of musical theater through his genius work. Each performer paid homage to Sondheim in their own way and the show they put on wasn’t just meant to be watched- it was meant to be experienced.