Into the Woods: A UNBC Musicals Production

Tierney Watkinson | News Director

UNBC Musical Productions Club is rounding off an impressive seventh year of shows. With a portfolio that includes the musicals Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Addams Family Musical, and Young Frankenstein, to name a few, audiences can anticipate another amazing show this year.

The chosen main production for 2018 is Into the Woods, a celebrated Broadway production that has also been made into a Disney film. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim, and the book is by James Lapine.

Into the Woods is the story of a baker and his wife who must collect a number of fairy tale items to please a witch, and thus break a curse. But there is more to the play than that one sentence—thank goodness, or it would be incredibly short and confusing.

The story features many beloved characters from classic fairy tales (for instance Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel) and, of course, some of their associated villains (with a twist).

I spoke with Veronica Church, President of the UNBC Musical Productions Club, about the upcoming show just last week.

Into the Woods was the optimal choice of musical for this year, Veronica said, because it has a fairly large number of lead roles, allowing more than one cast member to enjoy that spotlight. On the flip side, she admitted, the lack of “extra” (or chorus) roles in this musical did initially pose a potential problem; when over twenty people show up to auditions and you want to give everyone a place on stage, it is very difficult to cast everyone. But they made it work.

A blessing of this year’s musical is that it involves a significantly smaller number of set changes than previous productions, meaning the play can roll a little more quickly between scenes. Give or take a brief intermission, the production is roughly 2.5 hours long.

The club’s take on Into the Woods also involves some gender-blend casting, Veronica revealed, “I was watching Hamilton with friends, and I was like, ‘Man, I would really love to play Lafayette.’ Well why shouldn’t I be able to play Lafayette?” As a result, characters were not cast with gender in mind.  

We also spoke about a major problem that the club faces every year: the lack of an affordable, easily-accessible theatre with an ample stage. The size of the Canfor Theatre, the only “theatre” at UNBC, severely limits the possibilities and capabilities of the club. “There are very few plays that have a lot of leads and a big chorus that we can do in such a small theatre like the Canfor,” Veronica confirmed.

It would be wonderful if Prince George had more support for the arts, such as hosting a community facility devoted to theatre, perhaps similar to the Shadbolt Centre of Vancouver, said Veronica. Prince George is not entirely vacant of theatrical production hubs (the PG Playhouse and Theatre Northwest), but these spaces are not always viable options for small university theatre clubs; the amount of fundraising and preparation involved just to afford a space for shows in an off-campus facility is nearly unfeasible, especially when one considers the fact that the Musical needs to bring in enough revenue from those shows to support the club for a following year. The costs accumulated from production rights, set-building, and sound systems alone make the Canfor Theatre seem like the only viable option, for now.

However, despite the lack of a “Broadway budget”, as Veronica called it, the play is still looking to be spectacular. The music alone should blow audiences away.

Veronica also noted that audiences should listen carefully to each character’s scenes within the play. “The theme music for each character is like a hidden clue about what the characters are up to, what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling. It’s a very cool show.”

Although Veronica admitted that not everyone is into musical theatre, she said that once you try it, you are hooked. She spoke about how, for the past few decades, movie musicals (such as Footloose, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, and of course Into the Woods) have brought the musical genre further into the spotlight by being more accessible and generally cheaper to go watch than a typical musical theatre production. Even so, Veronica added, “Movie musicals are great, but there’s always something magical about seeing a show live.”

The club also traditionally presents another, smaller musical towards the end of the UNBC Fall semester each year—in November 2017, they put on Monty Python’s Spamalot. Many of the cast members from that play will also be starring in Into the Woods.

Most, but not all, of the club members are students at UNBC. “I think that it’s important to have people that are not a part of the school be a part of the musical,” Veronica stated, emphasizing that bringing people in from across the city is key because, as she said, it “Fosters a sense of community.” The club is open to any and all prospective members. “You don’t have to be a triple threat.” The club members are coached on the “tips and tricks” of the theatre throughout the school year. And, if you want to be involved but don’t want to be on stage, the club always needs help with sets, lighting, sound, and the other technical aspects of putting on a musical.

“Anyone can be in a musical.”

Returning as stage manager and sound manager respectively are Jackson Talbot and Tim Hillier. In charge of the lights system this year are Neil Brooks, Alex Pinette, and Jake Marcial. Bradley Charles will be helping with set construction. Joining Veronica on the Club Executive are Rylee Spencer (Vice President), Maddie Corbett (Secretary), and Lluvia Lopez (Treasurer).

Show dates are March 16-18 and 23-25. There is a 7 pm show each night, with additional matinees on both Saturdays (1 pm). The doors to the Canfor Theatre will open a half hour before every show. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for the general public and can be purchased right now in the UNBC Wintergarden, at Books and Company, or online at centralinteriortickets.com.

I said, right now. GO GET YOUR TICKETS RIGHT NOW.