As she scrubbed the floor, her step-sisters and stepmother howled in laughter at her request to attend the King’s ball. At the same time, a young boy traded his family’s cow for five magic beans, a girl in a red cape is skipping to Grandma’s house, a woman trapped in a tall tower lets down her long hair and a witch puts a curse on a baker and his wife’s home.
These first scenes introduced the audience to The Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts “Into the Woods,” a high school musical based on The Brothers Grimm fairytales that intertwines common fairy tales into one story.
“Into the Woods” has a larger agenda than singing and dancing to entertain its audience. Director C. Nicholas Morris said the musical tackles worldly issues “that we can relate to as an adult audience.”
Family matters, loss, temptation, greed, honesty and forgiveness are just some of deeper issues Morris said he hopes the audience will connect with and begin to think more about.
Senior Hayden Hart plays the Baker, who is on a quest to have a child with his wife. A curse is placed on their house by a neighboring witch, so their adventure starts by going into the woods to try to break the curse.
Hart said there are a lot of messages the cast is trying to send to the audience, but some are more brought out than others, such as the message in the last song of the musical.
“They say, basically be careful what you tell your children because they will listen and grow up into what you tell them to be,” Hart said.
To understand the varied messages throughout the musical, Morris said the cast had to tackle the subtext and dig deeper into what looks like a very simple fairytale on the surface, but is actually a lot more involved.
“We had them research the original fairytales and read those books,” Morris said. “Also, just having community time and talking as a cast about ‘What do giants mean? What does that represent in the show?’”
Senior Katie Blanton plays the Witch, an old hag who puts a curse on the Baker and his wife. Blanton said analyzing the witch’s past helped her discover how to better play the character.
“The witch, her past is just insane,” Blanton said. “Studying her back ground, it makes so much sense for every move she does, every word she says.”
The cast has been practicing every week since the first of September, but auditions go back to the second week of school. The audition process was led by a panel of judges including Morris, FWAFA teachers and local professionals.
“This year we did it different from past years, so the first night they just came in and did their vocal cuts for us,” Morris said.
The next night the panel had callbacks and held the dance audition, read scenes and sang more before casting the show. Morris said one reason for choosing this musical was to stray from FWAFA’s recent history of having big ensemble shows, and instead focus on challenging students to audition for one, specific role.
Hart said he decided to audition for the role as the Baker because he felt like he could relate to the character.
“I kind of connect with him because he’s a very scared little guy, which I’m not as scared of everything like he is, but I can just relate to a lot of what he goes through in the show,” Hart said.
The second reason for choosing “Into the Woods,” was to introduce the students to a complex Stephen Sondheim musical. Morris said Sondheim is “challenging musically, rhythmically” and it’s mentally fatiguing for the students to keep up with the musical changes on stage.
Blanton sang a solo as the Witch in the first act of the musical, which started with her angrily telling her daughter Rapunzel how children should listen to their mothers, and then the song quickly switched to a slower rhythm as she asked Rapunzel to stay with her.
“Sondheim who wrote the show wrote every little note so complex, and each note has a message,” Blanton said. “I think that’s what’s so unique about the show is although there’s so much material, there’s a message behind every word.”
The musical will run through Nov. 4 and you can buy tickets at the FWAFA website.