WENATCHEE — Rapunzel letting down her golden hair. The evil stepmother refusing to let Cinderella go to the ball. Jack and his beanstalk. And little red riding hood visiting her grandmother in the forest. “Into the Woods” at Ohme Gardens County Park has it all.
“This show is a lot of fairy tales intertwined,” Michelle McCormick, production manager for the show, said while gesturing to various props during Monday’s rehearsal. “All of these stories take place like all over the place.”
The story focuses on a baker and his wife, who are unable to have a child since a witch had previously cast a spell on the baker’s father. The witch agrees to grant their wish for a child if they collect something as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, slippers that look like gold and a white cow.
“Of course, Cinderella has a slipper, and Jack has to sell a cow. So, that’s how all of these other fairy tales are intertwined,” McCormick said. “And really, the story is more about ‘What are you willing to do for what you really want? Are you willing to compromise your ethics for what you really want?’”
The Stage Teens production includes a cast of 36 members playing 18 roles, with each role being double cast. A majority of the cast is between 13 and 18 years old.
Stage Teens typically does a show every August with a cast consisting of performers through their senior year in high school. Since there was no show last year due to the pandemic, several of last year’s seniors have returned for this year’s performance.
Caleb Clifton, who plays Cinderella’s Prince, said his character is compassionate but will do what it takes to get what he wants in the show.
“It’s great to finally be with friends doing what I love out on stage,” Clifton said. “It’s been really cool in the Ohme Gardens open-air theater. I’ve never done an open-air theater before.”
Carly Ostrem, who plays Little Red Riding Hood in the performance, describes her character as bubbly, but naive.
“It’s really exciting,” Ostrem said. “Being back with Stage Kids is a lot of fun. And I’ve missed it a lot, definitely. The last show I did was two years ago.”
Orstem said director Alex Stroming has allowed cast members to do their own blocking for the performance, and be creative with their role.
Stroming said this was a conscious decision.
“I basically sent the two separate casts away and said ‘Figure out your own staging. You decide what your scene’s going to be about, you make all the choices here,’” Stroming said. “Through that, the kids were really able to see that there is no one right or wrong way to play a scene or play a certain character.”
Stroming said the creativity reduces the competition and ego that comes with a double-cast show while also allowing students to make the show their own.
Most of the show’s choreography was organized by three performers. Parts of the show incorporate American Sign Language, which was suggested by another performer and is something McCormick has no previous experience with. And several cast members organized the lobby so the experience of the show begins as soon as the audience arrives.
“So watching them bring their creativity and their individualism but recognizing that as individuals, they can come together to create something that’s so much greater than the sum of all of the parts,” McCormick said.
McCormick said she is excited to provide a family entertainment opportunity in the Wenatchee Valley.
“I’m thankful that we kept moving, and that we didn’t stop,” McCormick said. “We’re the only youth theater in the valley. So if we’re not doing anything, there’s not a lot for them to take their children to.”
The audience is immersed in the performance, with the play taking place on three sides. Since the show isn’t restricted to just one stage, McCormick said there have been several challenges, including proper audio for cast members.
“There’s no backstage to cross, so they literally have to walk around the paths in the woods to get to their next location,” McCormick said.
The atypical set is incorporated into the performance. A light pole that was already in the garden is transformed into a beanstalk, while several scenes take place on rocks in the garden.
There is fixed seating in the audience, though McCormick said audience members can also bring chairs or blankets to sit on. Since it is an outdoor venue, McCormick said they have to plan the show out to make sure there is still enough sunlight when the show ends.
Park entry is included in the ticket cost, so audience members can explore before or after the show.