Entertainment Feature Story

Friends of the Arts presents ‘Into the Woods’

By Lori Lyn Lirio

The cast of ‘Into the Woods’ produced by the Friend of the Arts. Photo © Lori Lyn Lirio

THE baker’s hunt for ingredients – the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold – brought the popular fairy tales characters of ‘Into the Woods’ into life and created a one magical musical night.

The two-act play, which premiered last May 9 and ran for two days at the Multipurpose Center in Susupe, was brought to Saipan by The Friends of Arts (FoA). It was based on the on the book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

FoA president Susan Fishman-Tudor admitted the FoA-produced ‘Into the Woods’ may not be up to par as the Broadway, but they have local talents, whose quality of singing gave justice to Sondheim’s almost-operatic style.

“There is very little dialogue, everything is in song. Everybody have to work very hard to learn the music and very specific. This is the first time that I’ve been involved in Sondheim’s music. The written music is difficult to learn. When you are reading the script or acting out the script, you can add a line and fill in, but when you are singing a song, you can’t miss a note,” she said.

The FoA recruited young local talents in the community, most of them students, who have been performing in local and national competitions.

The cast list include, Dave Bucher, Macy Manzanares, Bonnie Gio Sagana, Rinisa Torres, Neil Fama, Joan Liwanag, Helen Ann Bucher, Clarisse Torio, Aira Joy Velasco, Amber Liwag, Marilou Conner, Nicoleanne Bird, Chuck Sayon, Miguel Aninon, Kelvin Wolf, Maria Metta, Eden Conner, James Reyes, Lauren Celis, Juliet Inocencio, Jefferson Cunanan, Khristian Itaas, Francis Pliscou and Jenine Perena.

“We have a cast of almost 40 people, just enough to fill the parts. A lot of people were cast for their vocal range,” Fishman-Tudor said, adding they also cast some of their actors too.

According to Fishman-Tudor, the cast have undergone a six to eight weeks grueling rehearsal after their audition.

“Everybody learned the music first and we coordinated with the orchestra which helps a lot.”

Into the Woods Pit Band with musical director Katie Hoyt. Photo © Lori Lyn Lirio

The two-hour play featured 72 songs and underscores accompanied by live orchestra under the helm of musical director Katie Hoyt. It was in 2009 when they had live orchestra, when FoA and Esther Park, flute.

The FoA president said one of the major difficulties was putting music and the script together. She said the play had been postponed because of the many hurdles.

“We had this production for April, but we had to postpone it,” she said.

When they have a play, they scheduled the showing on Thursday, Friday, Saturday night – or on weekends.

“But there were complications – there’s the Taste of the Marianas and the Marianas March Against Cancer,” she added.

They were also affected by the Superior Court’s building air-conditioning problem.

“There were a lot going on here,” Fishman-Tudor said of the availability of the Multipurpose Center.

“One of our major difficulties is doing all the rehearsals on the stage that we are not doing our performance on,” she said.

They were able to rehearse at the venue two days before the opening.

One of the things that FoA did for this production was upgrading the audio tech. She said one of the major complaints from people in the past was not being able to hear.

“It is really an intricate and complicated show. The score is difficult for the music. We have great production crew.

We have adult, stage managers – students and adult – helped in the production enormously. That is a real bonus when you are getting something to show as complicated and as intricate as this,” Fishman-Tudor said.

The technical staff are Chenoa Bunts-Anderson, Ellen Cotter, Tucker Baldwin, Nicoleanne Bird, Wesley Forster, Ruoxiang John Lu.

Scenic artists include Wesley Forster, Greg Elliot, Marianas High Art Club – Meillene Ferrer, Cherlene Detera, Mary Jane Domingo, Karen Irinaka, John Lum Cerijean Mangubat, Jed Pagcaliwanagan.

Play Director Harold Eaton explained that the first act for him is about wanting, and the second act is about the consequences and the unexpected results of that wanting.

“The consequences and unexpected results are equally part of that experience, sometimes for the good, sometimes not. See if you can recognize things you have seen during your lifetime that are reflected in our fairy tale characters,” he said.

“I think the message there is ‘be careful what you wish for,” Fisman-Tudor added.

The Friends of the Arts is the CNMI’s local community theater organization that promotes performing arts through hosting several plays each year. For more information or ticket reservations contact Frank Gibson through email at flgibson@yahoo.com.

Lori Lyn Lirio
Lori Lyn C. Lirio is a veteran newshen having worked for the People's Journal Tonight for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines University. She currently writes for the Marianas Variety, Saipan's number one community paper. .

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