Stetson Opera Theatre Opens Season with Musical Comedy ‘Into the Woods’

group shot of actors on stage for Stetson Opera Theatre
The “Into the Woods” cast pose in costume during a dress rehearsal on Friday, Oct. 15. From left: Scott Ochoa (Steward); Justice Yates (Big Bad Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince); Eliset Vehse (Snow White); Donnie Ward (Rapunzel’s Prince); Samantha Kmetz (Rapunzel); Jamie Howard (Cinderella’s Stepsister Florinda); Tessa Stone (Cinderella’s Stepsister Lucinda); Grace Lauther (Cinderella’s Stepmother); Sarah Sarver (Cinderella understudy and Fauna); Peter Lorenzo (Narrator); Kaylan Hernandez (The Witch); Owen Gonzalez (Baker); Isabel Barbato (Baker’s Wife); Chadley Ballantyne (The Mysterious Man); Alexis Reece (Little Red Riding Hood); Wesley Krist (Jack); Daniela Sosa (Cinderella’s Mother); Dominique Cecchetti (Granny and Milky White); and Jackie Tawil-Brown (Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood understudy)

Stetson Opera Theatre begins its 2021-2022 season with Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” The comedic opera tells a musical story that intertwines the plots of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Rapunzel.”

Kristie Born, DMA, performs in Stetson Opera Theatre
Kristie Born, DMA

The outdoor production, directed by Michael Foster, DMA, director of Stetson Opera Theatre, and pianist Kristie Born, DMA, visiting lecturer at Stetson University School of Music, hits the stage on Friday, Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m., in a wooded area on the east side of North Hayden Avenue between East Ohio and East Wisconsin avenues in DeLand. Complimentary parking will be available on the west side of North Hayden Avenue.

The on-campus performance will be moved to the Feasel Rehearsal Hall in McMahan Hall on the corner of North Woodland Boulevard and East Michigan Avenue, across the street from the Lynn Business Center, 345 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, 32723, if there is inclement weather.

portrait of director of Stetson Opera Theatre
Michael Foster, DMA

“Stetson Opera Theatre will take the audience on an immersive, outdoor experience and adventurous journey during its ‘Into the Woods’ production,” said Foster. “Stephen Sondheim was inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. He takes their stories to much greater depths while braiding them together to examine questions of contentment, fidelity and love in an entertaining, thought-provoking romp.”

The two-act fantasy opera tells a musical story with a twist, and features a witch who is the linchpin and links the fairy tales together.

Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” has continuously been produced since it premiered on Broadway on Nov. 5, 1987. The production has won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical.

A Disney film adaptation, directed by Rob Marshall, was released in 2014 and received three nominations at the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.

“Stetson Opera Theatre students typically strive to bring excellent vocal technique to the stage,” added Foster. “This upcoming performance will push them to marry their singing abilities with the heart and emotion a compelling story brings to an audience.”

Soprano and voice-performance junior Kaylan Hernandez of Miami will be portraying The Witch from “Rapunzel.”

“The Witch is a wretched, powerful, sarcastic and insightful character who sheds light on the moral of the story and the reality of life,” said Hernandez.

“Dr. Foster has helped me tremendously in developing my own version of The Witch and bringing the character to life. He also has assisted me with becoming more comfortable with taking risks and creating the version of The Witch that I believe to be the most genuine.”

Rapunzel’s Prince will be portrayed by lyric-baritone and voice-performance senior Donnie Ward of Ocean City, Maryland.

“Rapunzel’s Prince is self-centered and competitive,” said Ward. “Dr. Foster has helped me mold this naïve and shallow character with my acting strengths and what best fits the script.”

The Stetson Opera Theatre students will be wearing costumes during the performance.

The double-casted production will feature Annabrett Ruggiero (Stage Manager, Baker’s Wife understudy and the Blue Fairy); Sarah Sarver (Cinderella understudy and Fauna); Kaylan Hernandez (The Witch); Daniela Sosa (Cinderella’s Mother); Isabel Barbato (Baker’s Wife); Owen Gonzalez (Baker); Alyson Culbertson (Cinderella); Alexis Reece (Little Red Riding Hood); Christianne Wilson (Costume Director); Roxana Triana (Merriweather and Granny understudy); Dominique Cecchetti (Granny and Milky White); Jackie Tawil-Brown (Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood understudy); Eliset Vehse (Snow White); Samantha Kmetz (Rapunzel); Justice Yates (Big Bad Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince); Annalycia Franklin (Giant’s Wife and The Witch understudy); Wesley Krist (Jack); Donnie Ward (Rapunzel’s Prince); Peter Lorenzo (Narrator); Grace Lauther (Cinderella’s Stepmother); Tessa Stone (Cinderella’s Stepsister Lucinda); Scott Ochoa (Steward); Jan Ettiene Jusino-Medina (Cinderella’s Father); Jamie Howard (Cinderella’s Stepsister Florinda); Kira St. Pierre (Flora and Rapunzel understudy); Sarah Cruz (Jack’s Mother and Props Master); and Chadley Ballantyne, DMA, assistant professor of voice at Stetson University School of Music (The Mysterious Man).

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth and are available to purchase online.

-Sandra Carr