Be careful what you wish for!

Freudian psychology meets musical theater in Sondheim’s Into the Woods

University Theatre and University Opera join to present Stephen Sondheim’s classic mashup

December 27, 2018

Cinderella wants to go to the ball; Jack wants to climb the beanstalk; Little Red Riding Hood wants to take some goodies to her grandmother; Rapunzel is stuck in a tower.  Add to these popular fairy tales one more about a baker, his wife, and the witch next door, weave them all together, and you have the ingenious mashup otherwise known as Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods.

From February 21st through 24th, 2019, University Theatre and University Opera, in partnership with the Wisconsin Union Theater, will co-present Into the Woods at Shannon Hall in the Memorial Union, marking the first time in twelve years that the Mead Witter School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Drama have collaborated on a production.  David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop director of opera, will direct, and Chad Hutchinson, orchestra director, will conduct.

Five performances are planned: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.

Buy tickets here.

Into the Woods costume design for Granny and the Baker’s Wife, by Ashley Bellet.

The production will feature 20 singer-actors on stage, supported by over 70 instrumentalists, stage crew, and theater artisans from the School of Music, Department of Theatre and Drama, Department of Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, and from the campus-at-large, accompanied by the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra.

The timing of this presentation, two weeks after Madison Opera’s production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, could not be better for all lovers of musical theater and particularly the work of Stephen Sondheim.  The opportunity to see two fully-realized, productions of Sondheim’s major works in such a short time will certainly make February 2019 “Sondheim Month” in Madison.

Into the Woods is a story of interconnected fairy tales where familiar characters venture into the woods to fulfill their deepest wishes.  Half way through, it appears that all are succeeding and will live “happily ever after” until the real consequences of the characters’ actions come back to haunt them – and they do with a vengeance.  Ultimately, each finds resolution and comfort in community, but only after sacrifices are made and difficult lessons are learned.

Into the Woods is chock full of memorable, urbane, often funny, beautiful songs – indeed many of Sondheim’s best – including Cinderella’s “On the Steps of the Palace,” Jack’s “Giant’s in the Sky,” the ironic duet, “Agony,” sung by the two Princes, the Witch’s heartfelt “Stay With Me,” and finally, the show’s moving anthem “No One is Alone.”

This elaborate production will feature the work of two student designers.  M.F.A. scenic design student John Drescher, assisted by Ariana White, Jake Prine, and Emma Bruland, have crafted an imaginative set that incorporates projections and involves many moving parts.  Senior Ethan White serves as sound designer, assisted by Isabel Coff, sound engineer. They are joined by professionals: costume designer Ashley Bellet, lighting designer Kenneth Ferencek, and props designer Lydia Berggruen. Completing the production team will be production stage manager Jahana Azodi, technical director Greg Silver, scene shop head Rob Wagner, assistant directors Benjamin Hopkins and Thomas Kasdorf, and assistant stage managers Molly Jean Frisch and Dylan Thoren.  Additional production support is provided by scenic charge Emily Rudolf, lighting board operator Hope Robiolio, and master electrician Alice Combs.

The majority of performers on stage will be undergraduate students.  Miranda Kettlewell and Elisheva Pront will split performances as Cinderella; Zoe Bockhorst and Meghan Stecker will share performances of Little Red Riding Hood; Talia Engstrom and Emily Vandenberg will both perform the role of the Baker’s Wife; Bryanna Plaisir will take the role of the Witch; Michael Kelley will be the Baker; and Christian Brenny will perform the role of Jack. The Princes will be Benjamin Galvin (Cinderella’s Prince) and Tanner Zocher (Rapunzel’s Prince) and the Wolf/Steward will be played by Cobi Tappa. Cinderella’s adopted family will be portrayed by Faith Fuller (Stepmother), Josie Brandmeier (Florinda), Shasparay Lighteard (Lucinda) and Zach Wolff (Cinderella’s Father).  The triple assignment of Cinderella’s Mother, Granny, and the Giant will be fulfilled by Angela Peterson.  Master’s student Kelsey Wang will be Rapunzel.  Doctoral candidates Quanda Johnson and Joshua Kelly will play the roles of Jack’s Mother and the Narrator/Mysterious Man respectively. Besides Maestro Hutchinson, the musical team will consist of Mead Witter vocal coach Dr. Daniel Fung, doctoral candidate Thomas Kasdorf (musical preparation), and Wade Troyer (rehearsal pianist).  In addition, doctoral student Michael Dolan will serve as assistant conductor and conduct one performance.

Buy tickets here.

University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact Or visit the School of Music’s web site at