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'Into the Woods' brings fairy tale characters into one story

The musical's orchestra practices their pieces as the cast practices behind them. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
Hope Davis and Ellie Gullicks act out a scene together. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Ben Wentzler and Adam Iverson practice a scene. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Sam Nutter and Ellie Gullicks practice a scene together from the spring musical. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
Eva Storkamp stands with other cast members in the background. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

The cast and staff of Hastings High School's upcoming spring musical battled early spring snowfall throughout the show's practice schedule, but are now gearing up for the Friday premiere.

Inclement weather in April cancelled some practices and led to the cast's first full run-through of the musical "Into the Woods" to be just two weeks before the first public showing. Despite that, the group of about 50 Hastings students involved have been committed and are down to fine tuning the production, said Molly McElroy, a co-director of the musical.

"I do think they understand we are in a bit of a time crunch," she said. "I'm really very impressed with the commitment of the group of them ... it's just about tightening up choreography and musically."

"Into the Woods" was originally written by well-known musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim and will feature about 50 Hastings students in the various aspects of the over two-hour musical. The musical, one McElory described as difficult to perform due to complex melodies and unique rhymes, was selected with the cast's skill level in mind, she said.

"We knew we had the students who could handle it," she said.

The play involves several well-known fairy tale characters like Cinderella or Jack and his counterpart The Giant in a forest while on a journey. The musical was first performed professionally in 1986 and later made into a film in 2014.

Trevor Zeyen, a senior at Hastings High School, plays a wolf in the musical's first act and helps assemble the stage. He said that the cast was pleased with the choice of "Into the Woods" as this year's musical.

The start of practice was, at times, "hectic" as cast members acclimated to their separate roles, he said. And Zeyen's scene was even rewritten to better fit the production, he said.

"As we've been getting to [these last weeks] all of the mass pieces are finally getting finalized and well performed," Zeyen said.

McElroy works at Hasting's Black Dirt Theater — where the musical's co-director Robin Starch also works and is the artistic director — and said that across the productions and age ranges she has worked with, the Hastings High School students "keep pulling [her] back."

"They're just so curious and ... you know you can speak to them on an adult level, and they're still curious enough to want more," she said. "The willingness and curiosity is amazing in that age group."

McElroy also directs the school's fall musical.

The production's musical director is Sarah Lockwood, owner of the Hastings Art Center.

The musical premieres at 7 p.m. Friday with other runs at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $5 for students and $8 for adults.