Sandy River Players share triumphant return to the stage with ‘Into the Woods’

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FARMINGTON – Venture Into the Woods if you dare, with the Sandy River Players’ stunning performance of Stephen Sondheim’s popular play.

Into the Woods, originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine with orchestration by Jonathan Tunick, is a whimsical and tangled play based on a series of classic fairy tales. Featured in the play are the Brothers Grimm version of the stories of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. These well-known stories are intertwined with the story of a baker, his wife, and their journey for a child for a two act play.

The Sandy River Players performance, to be held at the Emery Community Arts Center on the UMF campus, is directed by Ethan Wright and produced by Karen West. The show includes a live orchestra, sponsored by Franklin Savings Bank. 

This is the first full-scale production from Sandy River Players since 2016, and it is well worth seeing. 

‘Into the Woods’ performed by Sandy River Players.

Into the Woods is one of director Ethan Wright’s favorite shows. The group had been working on a production of Mamma Mia! when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to put off the show. When they began working on another performance, they were unable to secure the rights for Mamma Mia!, so they ended up choosing Into the Woods

Wright said an important part of the story is facing down the giant. The giant can be anything: the pandemic, cancer, poverty, or other challenges that we face, and it’s important to remember that we do not have to face these challenges alone. 

“I just think it’s the perfect show for the time we’re all in,” Wright said. 

Production began in early November for this show, taking about two and a half months for rehearsals and preparations. The shows will play January 12, 13, 14, 20, and 21 at 7 p.m., and at 2 p.m. on January 22. Tickets were sold at Devaney Doak and Garrett Booksellers. Most shows are already sold out, but there is the possibility of tickets at the door on performance nights.

Editor’s note: Due to the weather conditions the Sandy River Players have made the decision to cancel the show on Thursday, January 12. A show will be added on Thursday, January 19, and tickets purchased for the show on the 12th will be accepted for the show on the 19th. 

The cast of performers, supporting crews, and the orchestra are local to the area. 

Peter Osborne, as the Narrator and the Mysterious Man, opens the play with reading from a story book. The cast includes Rylee Doiron as Cinderella, Brendan Hickey as Jack, Kate Parlin as Jack’s Mom, Annie Norris as Milky White, Gavin Pickering as the Baker, Savannah Leavitt as the Baker’s Wife, Brianna Rush as Cinderella’s Step Mother, Isabelle Rogers and Phoebe Rogers as the Step Sisters Florinda and Lucinda, and Robin Lisherness as Cinderella’s Father. Meghan Rivard portrays a sassy and curious Little Red, while Melody Bickford is the cunning and conniving Witch. Tim Berry is the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince, Molly Gurney is Rapunzel, Clay McCarthy is Rapunzel’s Prince, Rhett Sexton-Burchfield is the Steward, Say Carnahan is Cinderella’s Mother, Ruby Marden is Granny, and Avery Osella is the Giant. 

‘Into the Woods’ cast members.

The orchestra is conducted by Ethan Wright and includes Blaise Spath, flute; Chris Falcone, bassoon; Leslie Bardo Geissinger, violin; John Lawson, bass; Andrea Keirstead, piano; Steve Barter, clarinet; Maddie Labonte, horn; Natalie Veilleux, cello; and Mark Fredricks with percussion. 

Gracie Libby is the stage manager. Ike Libby is on lights and Dan Labonte on sound. Annie Norris designed and made the costumes while Gavin Pickering did the props. Other supporting roles include Joni James, photography; Andrea Keirstead, rehearsal accompanist; Stan Spilecki, Emery technical director; Joel Johnson, associate technical director; Ally Brophy, promotions; Dan Huettner, tree carpentry; and Jason Parlin, lead carpenter. In addition to his other roles, Ethan Wright helped with promotions, designed the set, and acted as the music director. 

The set was constructed by members of the crew and cast, and others, including Ethan Wright, Jason Parlin, Dan Huettner, Bruce Ibarguen, Robin Lisherness, Tim Davis, Brendan Hickey, Frank Giampietro, Dani Tannenbaum, Peter Osborne, Gracie Libby, Gavin Pickering, Clay McCarthy, Brianna Rush, Isabelle Rogers, and Phoebe Rogers. 

According to Producer Karen West, the Sandy River Players first met in the mid 1960s. They performed three-act plays at the Farmington Community Center into the 70s before going dormant for a period of time. Jane Parker revived the group in the 80s and they began performing at UMF’s Alumni Theater. Jayne Decker was also instrumental in the group’s success in recent years. 

Sandy River Players have also performed at Old North Church, West Farmington Grange, Mt. Blue, and on the road. In addition, they host a three-week summer camp program where area youth learn all the aspects of theater production as they work on producing and performing a musical. 

“We had a rough go during COVID,” West said. “We tried one year to do a livestream of a show but I wouldn’t recommend that.”

West noted that many of the cast members for this show have been performing with Sandy River Players since they were kids and college students.

This production is a triumphant return to the stage for the Sandy River Players, and the group hopes to hold more programs and productions in the future.

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