Venturing ‘Into the Woods’ at YSU

By Frances Clause

Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk were united on one stage for an enchanting opening night of “Into the Woods” at Youngstown State University.

Directed by Matthew Mazuroski, associate professor and chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s epic fairy tale came to life in the Ford Theater Friday. The cast of the sold out musical showed why it’s a multiple Tony and Drama Desk Award winner.

“I think my favorite thing about the show is the fact that it takes all of these conventional fairy tale characters that we know and love and crushes any prior knowledge we thought we had about them,” Jessica Hirsh, a senior musical theatre major, said.

Hirsh’s role as the Witch in this musical has given her countless favorite moments that have helped her grow as a performer.

“I think the most difficult part about playing the Witch is the sheer amount of upkeep I have to do in terms of taking care of myself to be able to execute the physical and vocal demands of the role,” she said.

Hirsh believes the role is spectacularly written and a complex character to perfect, and it was exciting for her to get to analyze a role that so many actors she looks up to have played.

“Looking at a text that Bernadette Peters, Meryl Streep and Donna Murphy spent time with is something that not many college age students get to do,” she said.

With courses and rehearsals throughout the semester, the cast, crew and pit orchestra of
“Into the Woods” were always preoccupied. In total, 8,500 hours were spent preparing for the musical.

Kivie Cahn-Lipman, professor of cello and conductor of “Into the Woods,” said he grew up with the musical and was part of the pit orchestra when he was in high school and college, as well.

“I saw [the musical] on Broadway in the original cast production when I was nine years old and was obsessed with it. I came into the process with most of the show already memorized,” he said, referring to his conducting position.

Although having prior experience with the musical gave Cahn-Lipman an advantage, the music throughout “Into the Woods” still came with its difficulties. He said most musicals have 15, 20 or 25 songs in one tempo and maybe some vamps — short musical passages often played during intros or solos — and cues, and they’re pretty straightforward.

“This musical probably has 100 cues in the prologue of act one and is a cluster of vamps and tempo changes,” he said.

Cahn-Lipman believes “Into the Woods” is the perfect collaboration for the Dana School of Music and the theatre department because of its operatic style, but the show would not be complete without the stage crew that is behind the scenes.

Elizabeth Sabo, a junior theatre studies major, became intrigued by stage management and decided this musical was the perfect opportunity to immerse herself in it.

“I’m in charge of letting everyone know what we need like props and scheduling when things happen,” she said. “So, during the show, I call all of the cues like when a scene or lighting changes.”

Sabo said getting through the tech week was a satisfying feeling because everything came together so well.

“When a scene goes right from the actors’ side and the technical side, it feels like all our hard work pays off,” she said.

“Into the Woods” will appear on the Ford Theater stage once again Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through the University Theatre Box Office or