The children will lead
Blue Room Young Company pulls off three inspiring performances of classic fairy tales in one day
Wednesday, May 25, was a big day for Lisa Schmidt and her cast and crew.
The director of the Blue Room Theatre’s Young Company and her energetic crew staged three performances in one day before large audiences at Laxson Auditorium. A total of 3,000 students, parents and community members came to 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 7:30 p.m. presentations of Into the Woods, Jr., an abridged version of the Sondheim and Lapine musical.
The Tony-award winning Into the Woods originally opened on Broadway in 1987 and ran for 764 performances; both the original and this Young Company version retell the classic fairy tales “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The original score and script were adapted by Musical Theatre International to produce this junior version, intended to be presented “by kids, for kids.”
Each one hour-plus performance presented one five-scene act featuring a talented ensemble of local middle-school-aged performers. The plot follows the story of a baker (Blair Palmerlee) and his wife (Chantal Hazzard), who sing beautifully harmonized duets and wish for a baby but are thwarted in their hopes by a curse from the witch-next-door, a delightfully wicked Nyima Rolde. All three students attend Chico High School and have performed in previous productions there, as well as with the Blue Room Young Company.
Also featured are Lila Rich, as the saucy, headstrong Little Red Riding Hood; you may remember her as the Little Kangaroo with the big voice from Chico Cabaret’s recent Seussical, the Musical, along with Sam Ruttenberg, here playing Cinderella’s prince, and Kate Ruttenberg, who plays Jack’s mother. Other notable young talents are Tyler Farmer, as Rapunzel’s prince, Elias Ferrini as Jack, and Antonio Lieberum as the wolf who impersonates Red Riding Hood’s granny (played by Katelyn Barrelt and Sarena Kirk).
The clever intertwining of the stories from the fairy tales follow the baker and his wife in their search for four elements requested by the witch to break the curse on their family so that they can have a baby. With only some magic beans to bargain with, the couple first seek a cow, White as Milk (played by an adorable Elisa Beiter), who happens to be Jack’s best friend; as his mother says, however, “Who ever heard of a cow as a best friend?” Jack reluctantly parts with Milky White, singing, “I’ll see you soon, again, old cow. … I hope that when I do, it isn’t on a plate,” and of course plants the bean, which grows the stalk, which leads him to confront the giant, etc.
Other highlights include the lovely soprano Megan Schwartz as Cinderella, Whitney Thayne as Rapunzel, and one of the funniest moments, the musical duet “Agony,” in which Ruttenberg and Farmer, as Cinderella’s and Rapunzel’s princes, respectively, face off and sing of the woes of loving princesses who are out of reach.
A nod also to Technical Director Jeremy Votava for his design of Granny’s house and to Alex Belden for cool red lighting during the Little Red Riding Hood segment.
Miraculously, as always seems to happen in fairy tales, all end up getting what their hearts desire, and the finale is sung by the entire company (in a well-harmonized chorus, thanks to Musical Director/Choreographer Allison Rich), with a reminder to the audience that “Children will look to you for guidance, so be careful where you lead them.”
The Blue Room Young Company presents many fine productions, and summer is the best time to get involved. Camp Blue has daily classes and workshops, with performance opportunities, taught by actors/technicians Lisa Schmidt, Sarah Foster, Jeremy Votava, Michelle Smith (who also assistant-directed Into the Woods), art teacher and scenic design artist Margaret Sands, and fencing and stage combat expert Eric Ricketts. Ages 4-18 are encouraged to join the fun; contact Lisa Schmidt at the Blue Room at (530) 895-3749 for more information.