Josiah Burton rehearses as his “Into the Woods” character, Jack, at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Josiah Burton rehearses as his “Into the Woods” character, Jack, at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Performers take the stage for Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’

The show follows characters and storylines from well-known folklore

Everyone’s favorite fairy tales come to life this weekend with the Kenai Performers’ debut of the musical “Into the Woods.”

The show follows characters and storylines from well-known folklore, but also introduces a dose of reality, director Hannah Tauriainen said during a rehearsal this week.

“Act one is sort of like a typical fairy tale-style where there’s a narrator and he’s telling stories and they’re all intertwined, and by the end, everything’s wrapped up in a neat little bow,” Tauriainen said. “Then act two is like, well, there’s actually consequences to things that you do.”

She said she chose “Into the Woods” — which features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim — for a challenge.

“I just thought it would be really fun to get to smash (the fairy tales) all together, have people have a little familiarity with stories but realize that it’s changed and it’s a little more fully realized,” Tauriainen said.

In addition to the storylines, she said the score has been tricky to nail.

“It’s sort of deceptive because the audience will walk away from this musical with a couple little earworms,” Tauriainen said. “But rhythmically, it’s so challenging. These guys had to work so hard to be able to keep up with it.”

In all, there are almost 30 members of the cast and crew — ages ranging from teenagers to older adults — as well as a full live orchestra.

Tauriainen said the troupe is working out the final details before opening night on Friday.

“We’ve kind of hit the crescendo at just the right spot where we’re starting to feel really good right now, and so we’re almost to the peak, which is usually where you want to hit opening night,” she said.

Heidi Kruger plays the witch in the musical, and said bringing a villain to life onstage has been both challenging and rewarding.

“The witch is a mother, but she’s not a very good one. She cares more about herself and her own motivations and what’s best for her moving forward than her own daughter, and that’s what kind of just makes the whole thing fall apart,” Kruger said. “She’s definitely a challenging one, but definitely lots of fun.”

This is Kruger’s first time acting with the Kenai Performers, although she was the vocal director for “The Beverly Hillbillies” show last year and has also helped with the summer drama camp.

She said this spring’s show has been the culmination of a lot of time and energy.

“It’s been a lot of work to get this all put together, but the last few days and weeks have been so rewarding to see all the work that people have put in all the time, and it’s really coming together quite nicely,” Kruger said. “I think we’re all a bit nervous for the beginning show, to show it to everybody, but everybody’s been working very hard and doing an awesome job.”

Ian McEwen is a seasoned local actor. “Into the Woods” will be his 12th musical with the Kenai Performers in 13 years.

But the part he plays this time — the narrator — is slightly different than most other characters he’s taken on.

“It is challenging, because my entrances and exits don’t have much of a connection to the story itself,” McEwen said. “So it’s a very different type of role than I’ve done, because it is so much just presenting to the audience.”

The uniqueness of the part, he said, has also been fun to navigate.

“I really enjoy being a character who is completely different from every other character on stage,” McEwen said. “You can see it in the costuming. They’re all in bright colors — I’m in black, white and gray. I am very modern — they are very old-timey.”

He said he’s feeling confident for opening night.

“We have come a long way since the beginning of the rehearsal process, but even in the last week we have just made leaps and bounds,” McEwen said.

There will be three weekends of shows at the Kenai Performers Playhouse: March 18-20, March 25-27 and April 1-3. Friday and Saturday shows will begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees will begin at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available for $20 online at kenaiperformers.org or by calling 907-740-8060. Tauriainen said the organization has had issues with Facebook bots claiming they could resell tickets, but those are fraudulent.

For online purchasers, the receipt is the ticket that will be checked at the door. No paper tickets will be issued.

It is recommended that online purchasers print their receipts to show at the door. If someone can’t print their receipt, a photo ID is required at the door, as ticket-takers will have a list of online ticket purchasers.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Selia Butler (left), who plays the Baker’s Wife, and Charli Byrd, who plays Little Red Ridinghood, rehearse at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Selia Butler (left), who plays the Baker’s Wife, and Charli Byrd, who plays Little Red Ridinghood, rehearse at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Selia Butler (left) and Kelsey Short act as their “Into the Woods” characters — the Baker’s Wife and Cinderella — at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Selia Butler (left) and Kelsey Short act as their “Into the Woods” characters — the Baker’s Wife and Cinderella — at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Charli Byrd (left) and Selia Butler, who play Little Red Ridinghood and the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods,” run through voice exercises with vocal director Rosemary Bird at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Charli Byrd (left) and Selia Butler, who play Little Red Ridinghood and the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods,” run through voice exercises with vocal director Rosemary Bird at the Kenai Performers building in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

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