Pioneer students ‘grateful to be on stage again’ with ‘Into the Woods Jr.’

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School students rehearse “Into the Woods Jr.” in the auditorium. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield rehearse “Into the Woods Jr.” in the auditorium. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School students rehearse “Into the Woods Jr.” in the auditorium. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield rehearse “Into the Woods Jr.” in the auditorium. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sophomore Raven Singh rehearses her role as the witch in “Into the Woods Jr.” at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 3/16/2022 5:01:57 PM
Modified: 3/16/2022 5:01:45 PM

NORTHFIELD — One week after the Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee approved lifting the in-school mask mandate, students will experience another step toward a return to normalcy in the form of their first in-person musical since before the pandemic.

The musical, “Into the Woods Jr.,” which intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

There are 15 students involved in the production in grades seven through 12. Regardless of their performing experience, participants expressed excitement to be on stage in front of a live audience.

“I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to do this at Pioneer,” said Jonathon Bodenstein, playing the role of the baker. “I’m a junior so I only have one more year of doing this, and I’m really grateful to be on stage again.”

“This is my first musical, so I’m excited for that,” said Raven Singh, a sophomore who plays the witch.

Although their fall play was also an in-person production, this is the first in-person musical since before the pandemic began. The previous three shows have been done virtually. The cast has yet to decide whether performers will be masked, given the mask mandate has been lifted.

The school’s last in-person musical was “Cinderella,” which was canceled last-minute due to the pandemic, meaning that many of the students who would have performed in that show have not yet had the chance to act in a musical on stage.

“My last musical was ‘Cinderella,’” said Mia Fowler-Shaw, a ninth-grader who plays Jack’s mother and Rapunzel’s prince, “but it got canceled because of COVID, so I’m really excited to perform.”

Brian Campbell, director of the show and an English and health teacher, said he chose “Into the Woods Jr.” because he likes the “different interpretation of well-known fairy tales being blended into something different but also something slightly familiar.” The junior version of “Into the Woods” differs from the original in that it is shorter and more family-friendly.

The performers have also appreciated the musical’s ability to bring students together, from seventh-graders to seniors.

“Working with the high schoolers gives learning opportunities to us younger kids,” commented seventh-grader Eliana Gantt, who plays Rapunzel.

“It’s really nice for people in middle school to have older kids in the musical to look up to,” agreed Viola Brown, an eighth-grader playing “mysterious man.” She also demonstrated the “awesome beard” she gets to wear in the show.

Campbell noted, “the show is primarily singing,” which brings its challenges.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this and it’s been a challenge, especially for those of us who don’t have experience singing,” Raven agreed.

Students are also building the sets for the show. Eric Weller is working on lighting and sound design, and costume design is done by Cassandra Baldwin. The show’s music director is Sara Paige and the choreographer is Sarah Devine.


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