In the decades since its 1987 Broadway debut, Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods has been performed in venues around the world. At Amherst, students are about to present it both as entertainment and to explore timely questions of community. As Jayson Paul ’16, one of the organizers, observed, musicals “are about enjoyment and pleasure on the one hand, but also about serious themes and deep ideas.”
In that spirit, Paul and his fellow students decided it was time for the tradition of student musicals to return to Amherst after a five-year hiatus, and to start with something special. Amherst students organized a College musical from 2004 to 2011. Mark Swanson, director of instrumental music at Amherst, produced and music directed each of them. A. Scott Parry, director of opera and lyric theater at Ohio State University and director of the 2004–2011 shows, has returned to direct Into the Woods.
Into the Woods intertwines fairytale characters from the Brothers Grimm, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack (of the Beanstalk). For Paul, its emphasis on the communities that the characters form inside the forest brought Amherst to mind. The show’s many story lines intersect, clash and merge “to produce a new, unified story,” he says: “The fact that a story could coalesce with all these disparate characters into a single storyline, I felt, mirrored in a lot of ways what Amherst is all about."