Amdram's production of Into the Woods starts with a gala opening on Wednesday, July 6, and cast and crew are ready. Director Maddi McKenzie and musical director Caleb Arthur are putting the finishing touches on a promising show.
Among the young cast are Aaron Cogan [The Baker], Kezia Pickering [The Baker's Wife], Eleanor (Ela) Robbins [Little Red Riding Hood], Jesse O'Connor [The Witch] and Isabelle (Belle) McKenzie [Cinderella].
The Baker and The Baker's Wife have no names, but are referred to by their professions for the purposes of the play and are immediately recognisable by their costumes, especially the hats.
"I call him 'husband' behind the scenes," says Kezia. Both she and Aaron love working with Maddi.
"She's been so easy going with it all, and helpful," says Aaron.
"And since she's young she understands us," says Kezia. "She gets what's in our heads."
And they love working with Caleb. "He's great," says Aaron.
"He's very helpful with this confusing music," says Kezia. "Sondheim likes to play with us."
Aaron started singing lessons with Lynn Whiteside two years ago and he was in Whanganui High School's production of Mamma Mia last year. He is now on a gap year but finds he loves theatre. "It's such a thrill being on stage and getting to sing and act and be a character that's not yourself."
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Kezia has been involved with Amdram and school productions. She is at Whanganui High School. Being involved in productions at Gonville School led her to join the Amdram Starlets programme.
Into the Woods revolves around their characters. "The Baker and The Baker's Wife want to have a child, and they can't," says Kezia " ... they find out they need to break a spell and they have to go into the woods to do that.
"Then they think they're going to live happily ever after, because they have what they wanted."
When Jesse O'Connor plays the witch, she is the stereotypical witch from a number of fairy tales. "The witch is the initiator of all the trouble ... I am the one egging on the Baker and The Baker's Wife to go on this quest," says Jesse. "I am evil ... or am I? We don't know yet.
"Every character is significant to their quest,"
"We are like stepping stones," says Ela. She loves her character. "She so evil, and quirky."
"But no-one is necessarily good or bad," says Jesse. "Don't go to see the show with any expectations."
"Yeah, you know nothing," says Ela.
"I did Into the Woods in Year7 in Australia, and I was Little Red Riding Hood," says Jesse. But she really wanted to be the witch, and now she is.
"And she's amazing." says Ela, in a stage whisper.
Ela says the cast and crew have become like a family, helping each other on stage and off. "Everyone is just so nice."
Both have made names for themselves as performers and would love to carry on.
Belle McKenzie comes from a family of performers and she has been in lots of shows, including Shakespeare in the Park ... "But this is tougher," she says. "It's probably the most challenging play I've been in, ever."
Belle did not audition for Cinderella. It was Graham Dack, she says, who saw her potential as Cinderella when she entered the stage.
She loves the role, despite her character being treated badly, but she has her butterfly moment ... "But finds she actually doesn't mind being a caterpillar."
She says she's usually cast as comedic relief, or a man, so this role is a welcome change.
She says Terry Lobb must be commended for the costumes. "She has this clear vision, and whatever that vision is, comes to life. I don't know how she does it."
Into the Woods opens on Wednesday, July 6 at 7.30 at Amdram Theatre in Guyton St.