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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

MMNT’s “Into the Woods” dazzles audience, highlights student achievement

Courtesy of Zoe Stuart
The cast of “Into the Woods” takes a final bow after an absolutely electric performance. The production will run until April 21.

Mary Moody Northen Theatre (MMNT) returns to the stage this weekend with Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” a fantastical play set in a kingdom far away. Seniors Lillian Harlow and Juan Diego Chaparro lead the cast alongside Grace Coldicott, Rafael De La Cruz and Elsa Sanchez-Tolentino. Opening weekend was entirely sold out and, now that I’ve seen the production, it’s easy to see how it garnered such an audience.

Every MMNT production features several actors from the Actors’ Equity Association, an American labor union representing actors across the country. By working with Equity, students are able to join the union and participate in auditions that are sanctioned specifically for union members. Joining the St. Edward’s cast for this production are Martin Burke and Nyla Watson. Watson has been featured on Broadway, touring in the company of “Wicked,” the revival of “The Color Purple” and “Hadestown.” Burke has led in several one-man shows, including “This Wonderful Life” and “Circumference of a Squirrel.” 

“Equity actors are always real fun,” assistant director Christian Meaux said. “It’s very fun to play off of them. As someone who has played a costar to an Equity actor, they’re so much fun. They give so much in the production and, as a student, it’s kind of our job to meet that, particularly for this production, where we have Martin Burke and Nyla Watson. Martin Burke did a lot of voice acting in his day and he’s a renowned Austin actor. Having him around, he kind of sets that work doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. And, with Nyla, who just came off a Hadestown Broadway tour, she has been that side of professionalism, learning about Broadway and New York and connections. They’re always great to have around.” 

“Into The Woods” follows a cast of beloved fairytale characters, commentated by an objective third party, The Narrator (Burke). Jack (De La Cruz) wishes for his beloved cow to produce milk and Cinderella (Coldicott) wants to go to attend the King’s festival. Little Red Riding Hood (Sanchez-Tolentino) wants to visit her grandmother, but is ruthlessly pursued by the Wolf. Rapunzel wants freedom, and two Princes want to pursue their love. The Baker (Chaparro) and his Wife (Harlow) want a child, but can only have one if they break the Witch’s (Watson) curse, and they set off on their journey. While all wishes are granted, they collide and the consequences of their actions are dire. 

“I’ve grown so much from being here,” Harlow said. “I don’t think I really realized it until about last year, when I started getting cast in shows. Before I came to St. Ed’s, I didn’t really think of myself as an actor. I knew that I liked performance and I was a singer; however, I think this program has really pushed me as an actor specifically and this show, especially. Our director said this show isn’t just a musical, we have to treat it like a play and all of the character work and all of the discussion we’ve had with our director have really been helpful in making me grow as an actor.” 

It would be an understatement to say that “Into the Woods” is a hefty production. Spanning three hours and divided into two acts, “Into the Woods” encompasses multiple storylines that weave into each other masterfully. From the set to the sound design to costumes, “Into the Woods” is an incredibly immersive musical, transporting audiences to a world of giants, witches and magical shoes. 

Watson grabs the audience’s attention as the primary antagonist every time she steps on stage. As Cinderella, Coldicott performs with a vulnerability that is truly commendable. Sanchez-Tolentino and De La Cruz bring a lighthearted humor that cuts through the tense moments. Additionally, Harlow and Chaparro have an onstage chemistry that is the heart of this production. All in all, this production was a treat and, clearly, the product of a massive collective effort.

“Into The Woods” will run from April 11 to 21 in the Mary Moody Northen Theatre and all ticket sales go back into the theater, supporting students and making future productions possible.

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