INA, Ill. - In her debut directing Rend Lake College’s annual spring musical, Music Director Sara Alstat is going to a dark place. Alstat boldly chose “Into the Woods” by American composer Stephen Sondheim and author James Lapine. It runs March 21-24 and tickets are on sale now by calling 618-437-5321, Ext. 1467.
“I chose Into the Woods for a couple of reasons,” she said. “I knew that, at this point at Rend Lake College, we definitely have the singers who can actually sing this music. I’m all about trying to build their repertoire each semester.”
She also says it’s one of her favorites.
“I’ve always loved Stephen Sondheim. I love all of his musicals. I would love to be the Baker’s wife.”
It’s not Alstat’s first dance in the director’s chair. She has directed several dinner theaters at RLC in the past (“Alice in Blunderland,” “Teeney Bob: The Demon Pet Groomer of Sweet Street," “Starting Here, Starting Now,” and "Beowulf, Son of Beocoyote.”) But this is her first spring musical. It’s an opportunity to direct a bigger and more thoughtful production at the college.
“Into the Woods” follows a squad of fairy tale characters, exploring the consequences of their wishes and motivations. The main characters are taken from "Little Red Riding Hood", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", as well as several others. It’s all tied together by the story of the baker and his wife, their journey starting a family, and a Witch’s curse on them.
The plot is built around childhood heroes and villains. But, according to Alstat, there are many elements in the second act that may not be appropriate for children too young to determine what is real and what is acting.
Casting for the spring musical typically begins in January, but she began casting in late November for the challenging musical, she said.
“The show is a very difficult show to sing,” she said. “The music is very difficult, so I wanted to go ahead and cast the show and give them the music before Christmas break. They came back with [the music] learned. I was very impressed with it.”
She said she wanted about 10 weeks to make sure everything was in order with her cast before it puts on the production. With a few weeks left to rehearse, most of her actors are working without a script in their hand and the songs are sounding spectacular.
The Witch is being played by 17-year-old Kristin Doty of Herrin, while Sara Barnett of Benton is the Baker’s wife. Barnett is a graphic design major who has played in many roles at RLC and in the community. This will be her final show as a student at Rend Lake and she wants to end it big. She said rehearsals are going well so far.
“It’s pretty solid so far,” she said. “We have a lot of strong people. And they’re not just music majors, which is interesting. The guy I’m playing opposite of is actually a biology major. So, we have a lot of diversity and a lot of talent. I think it’s going to be really great!”
Barnett added that she loves the show “Into the Woods” and that this is her third time being in it.
“It has simplistic characters. But they all have this deep, underlying meaning and it’s great for kids and for adults.”
“I think the cast is excellent,” Alstat said. “I think the casting, as far as who has been in what parts, is really appropriate. I think my Cinderella is perfect for her part.” Cinderella is being played by Emily Wells of Sesser. “I’ve not had any issues with people not being prepared. They come in and they’re just as excited as I am.
“It’s going to be a fantastic show,” Alstat added. “It’s going to be one of the more difficult shows done here at Rend Lake College, musically. It is a very detailed and difficult music show.”