Into the Woods, it’s time to go | Orcas Center spring production

Once upon a time, a group of actors wished, more than anything, for a local production of “Into the Woods.”

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the Tony Award-winning play is one of giant proportions with an all-ages ensemble cast. It will run for three weekends on the Orcas Center main stage.

“It’s a bucket list item to do a Sondheim, and this is easily his most accessible work,” said director Jake Perrine, who is also the center’s artistic director and is portraying Cinderella’s Prince in the show.

The musical will run Thursday through Saturday from April 25 to May 11, starting at 7 p.m. A matinee is on Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at The running time is 2 hours.

With “Into the Woods,” writer James Lapine and composer Sondheim brought well-known Brothers Grimm characters together for a timeless piece that generations have held dear. The production follows a Baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk; Little Red Riding Hood who wishes to see her grandmother; and more. When the Baker and his wife learn they cannot have a child because of a Witch’s curse, they embark on a journey to break the hex. Everyone’s wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them as their lives intersect.

“The characters are making individual discoveries in the first half and then discover community in the second half,” Perrine said.

In addition to playing the role of Baker’s wife, Katie Zwilling is the show’s assistant director. Her 12-year-old daughter Grace was cast as Little Red Riding Hood and her 9-year-old Pix is playing Milky White the Cow. Katie has been involved in a production of ITW — her all-time favorite show — several times; the first was when she was Grace’s age.

“I have wanted to do ‘Into the Woods’ at Orcas Center forever, and I’ve been nagging Jake about it for years,” Katie said. “It’s a show about community. When facing something bigger than you, how do you face it? It’s a timeless thing in any era: when it came out in the 1980s during the AIDS pandemic, the revival in the 1990s with 9/11 and now with COVID. Plus it’s also hilarious and ridiculous and fun and walks through joy, too. It can appeal to any age.”

A long-time actor, Katie says her role as assistant director broadened her knowledge of live productions.

“I feel like I’ve had a master class from Jake in technical theatre and directing. There’s a real art to decision-making,” she said. “And with my kids in the show, I’ve had to step out of being a parent and let them find autonomy at Orcas Center — which is different from how it’s been for them here.”

Additional cast members are Indy Zoeller as the baker; Katie Wlaysewski as the witch; Chelsea Sherman as Cinderella; Kyle Graham as the narrator; Luke Bronn as Jack; Dorrie Braun as Jack’s Mother; Pedro Lopez de Victoria as Rapunzel’s Prince; Alison Calhoun as Rapunzel; Frank Michels as the Wolf and Mysterious Man; Asifa Welch as the Stepmother; Tori Smith as Stepsister Florinda; Claire Orser as Stepsister Lucinda; Tom Fiscus as the Steward and Cinderella’s Father; and Holly King as Cinderella’s Mother, Granny and the Giant.

Perrine says the show is the most difficult he’s taken on as a director. As the music is pre-recorded, there is zero margin for error. “Into the Woods” is also known for its underscoring (music beneath dialogue) and use of syncopated speech. The characters’ lines are often delivered in a fixed beat composed in eighth, sixteenth and quarter-note rhythms as part of a spoken song. Sharon Abreu assisted with vocal coaching, but the actors have primarily learned independently.

“This is light opera. There is singing through 80 percent of the show,” Perrine said. “Every person has risen to meet the role they’ve been given just beautifully.”

Like any community theatre production, there’s a legion of volunteers — some of whom are also cast members — instrumental in bringing it all together.

“This is Asifa’s first big musical as a performer and she’s stepping up in addition to creating many of the costumes. Frank and Tori are doing props,” Perrine said.

Mark Ferrari, a local illustrator, has donated a parcel of costumes and is designing the set pieces digitally. Perrine will project the renderings on the wing walls, build set pieces to those specifications and then project a final illustration onto the finished construction. Regina Zwilling is stage manager; David Leanzen will assist with set building; Jamey Moriarty will run lights; and Jeremy Kaiser will operate the soundboard.

“This show is like a 7,000-piece jigsaw puzzle between cues, lighting, the set and the costumes,” Katie said.

As opening night is on the horizon, Perrine and Zwilling can’t wait to share the magic of “Into the Woods.”

“I’m grateful for how this cast supports each other: the kindness, the camaraderie, the work ethic,” Katie said. “It’s become a family in a really positive way.”