“Into the Woods” takes the stage of the Pine City High School Auditorium this weekend, and an impressive cast of performers are ready to deliver inspiring performances in this modern musical classic presented by the Pine City Heritage Players.  

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine won a Tony Award for the show, which follows favorite storybook characters as they pursue their dreams.

“The big theme is, ‘I wish,’” said Jay Schueller, director of the show. “ Those two words are said over and over. And when you get what you want ... do you really want it? “

The Heritage Players point out that “Into the Woods” poses new challenges for many of the cast members as well as the musicians involved in the orchestra.  

“The show is all music,” said Darcey Stransky, stage manager for the show. “Even when the actors have a few lines of dialogue between songs, the orchestra will be playing.”  

The orchestra, directed by Jennifer Krinke with Sonda Jacobsen, has been rehearsing three nights each week since the beginning of June with the stage performers as they learned the music, memorized lines, and created unique characters and moments.

Schueller said it’s a special show for those performing in it.

“The actors ... came from Mora, Cambridge, Wisconsin,” he said. “It’s a complicated yet beautiful show. It’s fun to sing. I knew we had enough talented people who wanted to be challenged. They want something that ... is going to make them grow.”

One of those actors, Pine City’s Julie Samuelson,  plays Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, and is excited about her character.

“I’m kind of like a diva grandma,” Samuelson said. “Pretty over-the-top. Very fun.”

She said the musical has something for everyone to enjoy.

“It’s sarcastic and funny and there’s witches and giants. Everything you could ever imagine as a kid listening to a story. It’s fun, and it’s family-friendly. But it’s almost like going to a Disney movie, where the parents have another level of fun.”

Samuelson said the last time she was in a play was in eighth grade, but she recently decided it was time to get on stage again.

“When you turn 50 you decide to make a bucket list and start ticking them off,” she said.  “This was on my bucket list. It’s one of my favorites. When I heard it was coming, it was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do it.’ I didn’t care what I did. When I tried out, I just said, ‘Just throw me somewhere. I’ll hold props, I don’t care.’”

She said working with Schueller and the cast has been a great experience.

“Jay is just ... crazy enthusiasm,” she said. “And everyone’s really kind to a noob like me, so that’s fun.”

Schueller is also the current president of the Pine City Heritage Players, and with his background as a performer, set designer and director he has worked with many professional and amateur groups. He said the secret to the success of the Heritage Players is simple.

“This is a community theater,” he said. “The ones that thrive are the ones that care about the people first. It’s not easy, and you can’t always make everybody happy, but the goal is ... the actors have fun, the audience has fun. That has helped us grow. A lot of people say that even though this show is one of the hardest they’ve ever done, they’re still having fun.”

And though it’s a lot of work, directing “Into the Woods” has been a big positive for him too.

“For the other 10 months of the year I’m building and doing the tech side of the job,” Schueller said. “This is the other side of me. It just gets some creative juices flowing to keep the rest of the year going.”

He encouraged anyone interested to get involved with the Pine City Heritage Players by contacting them at heritageplayers@gmail.com.

“It’s just an outlet ... whether it be onstage, backstage, lighting, sound, costuming,” he said. “This is an opportunity to do something that you normally wouldn’t do. That’s why the people that are involved keep coming back.”

And he hopes that local theatergoers will all get a chance to head “Into the Woods” this weekend.

“There’s a Big Bad Wolf, there’s Little Red Riding Hood, there’s a giant,” he said. “Everybody has a favorite fairy tale. They’ll be able to see [that fairy tale] up on the stage.”

The Pine City Heritage Players’ production of “Into the Woods” will be performed on Thursday, July 18 at 7 p.m., Friday, July 19 at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 20 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 21 at 2 p.m. – all in the Pine City High School Auditorium.

 Tickets are on sale at Cabin Coffee, Three Twenty Brewing Co, and the Pine City Area Chamber of Commerce Office, as well as at the Pine City High School Auditorium before the performance.

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