Monday, July 18, 2011

SCR's Summer Players Begin Rehearsals for Sondheim's "Into the Woods"

Musical Director Erin McNally shares a laugh during rehearsals with Kailyn Dunkelman (Cinderella), Brianna Beach (Witch), Catherine Hass (Little Red Riding Hood), Valentina Gehley (Narrator), Kelsey Kato (Jack) and Rachel Teague (Baker's Wife)

Director Hisa Takakuwa, Musical Director Erin McNally
and Arranger Bobby Nafarrete go over the score
SCR’s Summer Players are students with at least one year’s experience in the Kids or Teen Acting Program, who audition for roles in the annual summer musical.  This summer, 28 of them have been cast in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

It’s a show that another director of young acting students might consider daunting.  Not Director Hisa Takakuwa, who has been nurturing a secret desire to work on Into the Woods for a long time.  Now that time has come, and she and Musical Director Erin McNally are thrilled.

“It’s my favorite musical,” McNally said. “And what a gift for young performers to have an opportunity to work on the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim!”

“It’s challenging,” Takakuwa admitted.  “But while the world of Into the Woods may be complex, it’s also an emotionally rich one in which to explore and create.  It’s filled with interesting characters and contains numerous themes that our young actors can relate to because they’re examining them in their own lives right now.  I think they’ll bring surprising truth and depth to the story.”

Rachel Teague (Baker's Wife) rehearsing with
Musical Director Erin McNally
And it will be a fun challenge, even more so with the inclusion in the cast of five graduates of the Theatre Conservatory, all on summer break from college.  “By widening the cast pool, we were able to comfortably choose a piece like Into the Woods,” Takakuwa said.  “It requires more mature and experienced performers and will benefit from the range of age (9-20 years) in both the rehearsal and learning process, as well as in the final telling of the story for our audience.”

The recent grads, all of whom spent between four and eight years in SCR classes and Players programs, are Chase Anderson-Shaw (USC sophomore/theatre major) as Cinderella’s father, Brianna Beach (UC San Diego sophomore/theatre major) as Witch, Jordan Bellow (Chapman sophomore/ BFA in theatre performance) as Cinderella’s Prince, Akshay Sharma (Harvard freshman), as Baker, and Rachel Teague (Orange Coast College freshman) as Baker’s wife.

Rehearsing on their own, Catherine Hass (Little Red
Riding Hood), Kelsey Kato (Jack), Kailyn Dunkelman
(Cinderella) and Akshay Sharma (Baker)
“They bring with them a knowledge of the program and a great love for it, as well as further training experiences after a year or more away from SCR,” Takakuwa said.  “I believe these grads will raise the level of experience of the younger actors.  Because SCR has helped shape and support all of them, they’re truly excited about being mentors and are eager to give back and share their experience and joy with others.”

All 28 cast members will share their joy with the audience when Into the Woods opens on the Julianne Argyros Stage August 6.

Get more information and tickets here.

L to R:  SCR Theatre Conservatory grads Chase Anderson-Shaw, Akshay Sharma, Brianna Beach, Rachel Teague, Jordan Bellow

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