West Delaware High School is performing the musical Into the Woods Thursday, April 8 and Saturday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. both nights. This fairy tale musical follows the story of a baker and his wife who have been cursed with childlessness by the witch next door. To reverse the curse, they set out on a quest that entangles them with famous fairytale characters like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and others.
While the high school typically has a musical in the fall and a play in the spring, changes to the schedule were made this year due to the impact of COVID-19 on the school year.
“It’s definitely been different this year from any year in the past,” said Anna Werner, a senior who plays the role the Baker’s Wife. “I’ve done musicals all my years here, this is my fourth, and it’s always in the fall, so the spring is a whole new ball game. Usually, we work around volleyball, football, and cross country, but this year we have to work around golf, track and soccer, and those practices tend to coincide with each other. Other than that, it’s been pretty much the same. We’re always in a crunched schedule, it seems like, but we somehow always seem to pull it together at the very end.”
According to Werner, it was unknown whether or not there would be a musical at all this year until it was decided to be safe in February.
“Our school wasn’t allowing us to bring in outside visitors, so it didn’t make sense to do a musical. That was when Delaware County’s positivity rate was super high in the fall and we were in hybrid classes to limit as much contact as possible. Usually, we have a play in the spring, the time slot we’re in right now, but the play moved itself to June and we were able to just slip into this time.”
Another significant change for the school musical is the degree that students have had to take responsibility for the show’s development, according to Regan Recker, one of the student directors.
“This year has been a really new experience,” said Recker. “We’ve had a lot of students helping each other. Typically in the past, we would have our head directors teach the show, but we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the Broadway version and the cast has basically taught themselves the dances, blocking, etc. It’s a really student-based show this year. A lot of students have taken part in building the sets, sewing costumes, and such. We started putting the show completely together two weeks ago. We would come and watch the Broadway version, act it out, and perfect it based on that. There was a lot of independence within the cast.”
Werner said this degree of student responsibility extends to learning the music, an essential part of this particular show.
“This musical is a lot more music-based than line-based,” said Werner, “and it was pretty much on you to learn your song and duet, to find times to work on the songs together or on our own. YouTube was a great resource for me because the Broadway version is on there and I was able to listen to the recordings a lot of times.”
West Delaware’s performance of Into the Woods allows all actors to be free of mask restraints to their acting while on stage, although they must wear them backstage. According to Sheeley McMahon, who plays the witch, the school got this idea from watching another school’s own performance of the same musical.
“There’s another high school we’re familiar with, Union High School in La Porte City,” said McMahon. “They did Into the Woods a couple weeks ago. Our directors went out there and noticed that their kids weren’t wearing masks but they were social distancing and wearing them backstage, so they thought, ‘If they can do it, we can do it too.’ We’re both 3A schools, so we’re comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.”
Werner would like to encourage people to come see the play, both for their own enjoyment and to see the hard work all the students have put into the show.
“This is the closest thing I’ve had to normal all year as a senior, as a person in the music department, and as a student at all,” said Werner. “It’s been great to be back and singing with everyone, acting, performing, and I think everyone here has put in a lot of hard work since it’s been more student-based and led. I know it would mean a lot to me and everyone else in the cast if the house was as full as it can get.”
“I love this cast and really like the music department here,” added McMahon. “I’d encourage parents to let their kids be involved in music in high school because it’s just a great environment.”