Moody Plans ‘Into the Woods’ Performance

by Tirzah Lee, correspondent

Next semester, the Moody campus will be ringing with lyrics sung by students in the showers, down the halls, and through the arches in preparation for the musical production of “Into the Woods.” Dr. Jori Jennings, professor of music, is the director for this year’s spring musical.

In the past, the spring musical has been a series of short scenes and excerpts from different musicals and classics. Putting on a full production has a new set of challenges.

“The last time I directed a full show at Moody, Music and Communications were still separate departments instead of a joint division as they are now,” Jennings said. “This class is a natural way to collaborate together. While it’s a bigger project than the course description requires, it’s also an opportunity to provide a richer, deeper—rather than broad like a scenes program—experience for those involved.”

Jennings and her team have an innovative vision for this production. The performance will be in the Sweeting 4 TV studio, where the audience will surround a majority of the performance space.

When auditions opened, a lot of Moody students from various majors tried out.

“Certain roles required more consideration than others,” Jennings said. “The most difficult part for me was roles where several students could be do a compelling job.”

Students who need to participate to fulfill graduation requirements were especially considered, although a few of Moody’s theology majors were also cast.

“Into the Woods” debuted in San Diego at the Olde Globe Theatre in 1986. This was just two years before “The Phantom of the Opera” dominated the Broadway stage.

“This is not a show where you leave humming the beautiful tunes sung by the ingénue,” Jennings said. “It’s heavily driven by the text and sometimes discordant musical motifs. There’s room for a much broader scope of vocal techniques and timbres than operas that I’ve cast in the past.”

The show unravels familiar fairy tales. It is centered around a childless baker and his wife who have unexpected family ties.

“There are so many recurrent themes in “Into the Woods” and they’re all things that shed light on our humanity,” Jennings said. “The path, the woods, unattained longings, right and wrong, teaching children, appearances, and working together are all significant elements of this show.”

Jennings seeks to drive home this humanity found in the woods through the symbolism of the path.

“Several characters, most notably Little Red on the way to Granny’s house, sing the line at the opening of the show, ‘The path is straight. I know it well,’” she said. “But the path changes as the stories unfold. ‘Into the woods where nothing’s clear, where witches, ghosts, and wolves appear. Into the woods and through the fear, you have to take the journey.’ Many of our students have left the path that is familiar in their lives: home, family, familiarity, and now, they navigate new, unfamiliar challenges.”

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