Cardinal Into The Woods
Cardinal Music Productions is preparing to stage the iconic Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods” this spring. Directed by Bayleigh Cardinal, the production promises to be an ambitious undertaking filled with the company’s signature flair.

“We wanted a show that was inclusive of the wide array of talent we are so fortunate to have within our company, but would also attract newcomers who have never done a show with us before,” said Cardinal on her inspiration for the show. “Into the Woods was the perfect fit because of its many featured iconic roles. It is also a show that is beloved by many and will for sure delight our audiences.”


With rehearsals underway, Cardinal reports that the process has been smooth but challenging due to the complexity of Sondheim’s score. “The music is definitely the most challenging part of a show like this, but our cast has worked hard and continues to work hard,” she said. On the production side, the team is hard at work on bringing the show’s magical elements to life through costumes, sets, and props. “We have a number of projects going as you have many iconic pieces in this show — the cow Milky White, Rapunzel’s Hair, and of course all of the fabulous fairytale costumes.”

In adapting the musical for Cardinal’s intimate performance space, Cardinal has focused on keeping the staging actor-driven rather than relying on elaborate sets. “I think the payoff will be huge because we have such a wealth of talent on the stage,” she explained. Great care has also been taken to clearly communicate the show’s humor and poignant themes through detailed blocking.

Auditions yielded an excellent mix of both new talent and Cardinal veterans perfect for the varied roles. “This cast is a wonderful tapestry of people, and that is exactly what we were hoping for,” said Cardinal.

For the director, Into the Woods continues to resonate thanks to its combination of fairytale fantasy and relatable human truths. “It’s timeless because it’s not hindered by any reality due to its fairytale setting and yet the messaging within the show is very grounded in reality,” she mused. “We go into this life as children who have wishes and then we face a brutal world where wishes don’t come true or even if they do, they aren’t what we thought they would be.” She’s also an admirer of how Lapine and Sondheim’s book and lyrics work together: “Sondheim music is driven by meter, and I think the book works the same way. They are both peppered with timely wit amongst the darkness.”

Cardinal cites the musical’s choral numbers as personal highlights. “I enjoy watching everyone working together to execute the movement and listening to all of the voices resonate together. I also find the end of the show very moving — when the chaos stops and the whole cast just takes a moment to sing the powerful message of the show. It’s beautiful.”

Staying true to Sondheim’s intricate compositions has been paramount. “We are sticking to the score because I firmly believe that the shows works best when the music is done as intended,” Cardinal stated.

Though not without its challenges, Cardinal reports that the team has overcome obstacles through hard work and dedication. “The hardest thing has been putting together a show of this size in the short rehearsal time that we’ve had, but we are lucky in having a cast and crew so dedicated to making it happen. We will be more than ready by showtime.”

With opening night fast approaching, audiences can expect a fresh take on a beloved musical filled with Cardinal’s signature heart and artistry. Into the Woods promises an evening of magic and meaning for Sondheim fans and newcomers alike.

Cardinal describes some of the most difficult scenes.

“It is difficult puzzling 22 people on stage, making sure they are all seen, and I blocked the group numbers in a way that there is constant movement, and that makes for tricky traffic patterns,” she notes. “But that is also what makes them some of my favourite numbers to watch. It is truly a group effort, and I love watching everyone come together.”

With so many bodies on stage, Cardinal has had to get creative with the blocking to keep the energy and story moving forward. The rehearsal process has also involved extra time dedicated to some of the more complex numbers like the opening and “Your Fault.”

“The opening definitely took more rehearsal time as there are more characters involved and I brought in the full cast for the end of the opening. Cardinal explains. “‘Your Fault’ is one of those numbers that is made easier when there’s blocking because you have a direction to place all of your many words.”

The layered harmonies and lyrics of “Your Fault” require meticulous rehearsal for the cast to nail the timing and rhythms. Luckily some of the lead actors arrived prepared, allowing the music and staging to click right into place.

Behind the scenes, Cardinal credits her husband Joe for his work as producer, wrangling all of the technical elements like sets, video, and audio. Costume designer Sherry Bondy has also been heavily involved from the early stages. “She has been very involved from the beginning with a clear idea of my vision for the show, and I can’t wait to see it all come together,” says Cardinal.

Some newcomers catching Cardinal’s eye include Wes Neskora as the Narrator and Mysterious Man, bringing both speaking and singing talent to the storytelling role. Nico Lunansky tackles the iconic role of Jack “and has put in a ton of work to truly grow into the role and is doing a wonderful job,” Cardinal remarks. On the comedic side, stepsisters Florinda (Carly Kelly) and Lucinda (Emerson Lobzun-Howe) plus their stepmother (Stephanie Hoffer) “never fail to make me laugh.”

She adds Christopher McPherson also brings humor and heart to the role of Cinderella’s father.

The cast also includes numerous Cardinal Music veterans and stage experts like Aaron Bergeron (The Baker), Lindsay Norris (Baker’s Wife), Norma Coleman (The Witch), Breannah Presley (Little Red), and Amelia Daigle (Cinderella). As Cardinal enthuses, “It is truly a show stacked with talent.”

In her vision for this production, Cardinal focused on using modernized costuming to make the show feel current while still letting the story and actors shine. She explains, “I really wanted to use a more modern model for the costuming of the show to bring it into the present, and to focus on the actors to do the storytelling.” Though the musical has been around for over 30 years, Cardinal finds its themes timeless and universally resonant.

Above all, Cardinal hopes audiences take away the message that “no one is alone. Life is brutal and eventually ends, but we don’t have to take that journey alone. Someone somewhere is on your side.” Though the show follows fairy tale characters, it explores very human struggles that we all face. It runs from February 23 to March 3 at E.J. Lajeunesse in Windsor.

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