A Broadway musical can be a challenge for the high school stage, but add in complex music and fairy tale elements, and the task might seem impossible.
But Travis Grizzell, drama teacher at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, is confident his cast and crew will put on a great show when they present “Into the Woods” this weekend.
Grizzell said he had a group of approximately eight seniors with great talent, as well as some juniors, and was looking for a production that would feature them all.
“Most shows highlight two or three or four people,” he said.
He and his wife, Pamela, were listening to songs while traveling to get ideas for the fall musical and music from “Into the Woods” came on.
“Pam said, ‘This show has 14 leads. You could do it,’ ” he said.
The Grizzells are no strangers to the Stephen Sondheim musical, as both were involved in the Hays Community Theater production in 2014.
At first, he thought the music might be too difficult for a high school group, he said, but changed his mind after some thought.
“The kids knew about it and a couple of them really liked the soundtrack. When I announced, they were just jacked about it,” Grizzell said.
Auditions were conducted in the spring, and students worked on the music during the summer.
“It’s been a massive project and process, but they’re doing well with it,” he said.
Once the school year started, scheduling became a challenge.
“TMP kids that do stuff, they do everything,” Girzzell said. “On any given night, I might have a half to two-thirds of them in here. So you find yourself not getting the whole group together until a week before the show because fall sports are over, things have died down and now finally schedules line up where they’re all off on a day or two.
“They lean a lot on their natural ability because they always pull it off in spite of the insane lack of rehearsal time they have,” he said.
The complexities of the characters and staging add to the challenge, he said.
“It’s a fairy-tale driven piece, so you’re dressing a kid up like a wolf, and you’ve got Rapunzel hair and two parts of it have to be detachable. And there’s some stage wizardry that happens with those things,” he said.
Approximately 25 parents and other volunteers are helping bring the production together with set design, costumes and hair and makeup.
“It is really cool to see people either care about what we do enough, care about the school, or that’s their skill set and they like to do it, and they don’t expect a thing for it. They just enjoy the process,” Grizzell said.
“It all happens because people want it to,” he said.