The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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High school musical debuts

The high school musical, “Into the Woods,” premiered with a student matinee perfomance on Dec. 13. Photo by Dr. Solomon, used with permission.

“Nice is different than good.” This is just one of many philosophical refrains in the 2023 CESJDS High School Musical, a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” This iconic line sets an erudite tone for an otherwise whimsical production. 

A seemingly ramshackle combination of classic fairy tales comes to a head when each character reaches their happy ending. Jack climbs the beanstalk. Rapunzel finds love. Cinderella gets the prince. And all of this is just in act one. Act two features the tragedy that strikes after the main characters’ traditional endings. 

“It’s a show that asks what happens when you reach your dreams. When you’re young, you have all these wonderful dreams. And sometimes you reach them and sometimes you don’t,” Director of Arts Education Dr. David Solomon said. “But is it a good thing if you reach your dream? And the musical asks that very question. And the answer might be [that] you should have a dream, [but] you shouldn’t necessarily reach it.”

Being Solomon’s 25th show at JDS, Into the Woods is a cast-favorite. Many student actors requested Into the Woods and were pleased when Solomon announced this selection. 

Senior Shiri Cohen is playing the witch, who is loosely based on the witch from the story of Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm. As one of the antagonists of the play, Cohen finds her character both difficult and easy to relate to. However, she is able to see direct parallels between the scenes and high school relationships.

“I think my favorite part or scene is the ‘Your Fault’ scene where Cinderella, the baker, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood are essentially trying to find the blame for all of this,” Cohen said. “I find this really funny because I think it relates a lot to high school drama and human drama where a lot of people try to find the blame.”

While “Into the Woods” has many meaningful themes, it is also an incredibly intricate production to put on. As it follows the stories of various Brothers Grimm tales, there is extensive set design and even sound design. According to Solomon, “Into the Woods” is “without a doubt the hardest show” that he has put on at JDS.

As the musical requires sound effects to enhance various scenes, sound design is crucial. Sophomore Ella Arking is heading this complicated task.

“Some of the sounds were very specific and difficult to find,” Arking said. “Another challenge was the giant’s [sound effects] because we recorded somebody in the school. I had to edit that, but then I had to re-edit it all over again because it wasn’t exactly what was good for the show.”

Since it is her first time doing sound design, Arking has built off of her prior knowledge of editing songs and has received guidance from music teacher Samuel Grob.

The timing of the production has also proved to be a challenge for the cast. Due to the conflict in Israel, having a set deadline has been a motivator and obstacle in the rehearsal process.

“I’m very connected to Israel, and what’s happening right now has taken an incredible toll on me emotionally. So the fact that it struck around the time that rehearsals started, it made the whole rehearsal process a lot more difficult,” Cohen said. “But I think that because the community is so loving and supportive, I was able to get through it and work through the hardship of knowing that my homeland is under fire while also continuing to work on this show.”

Solomon recognizes this struggle and is sympathetic to his cast. He is “glad” to give many students the spotlight and finds that rehearsals have become a reprieve from current events.

“It’s been hard putting a musical together with so much difficulty going on in the world right now,” Solomon said. “And in many ways, rehearsals have been that moment of joy that we’ve needed during what is otherwise a sad and challenging time.”

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