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Murray Journal

‘Greatest musical’ to grace Murray Park stage

Jun 28, 2018 11:55AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The wolf (Shelby Saxton) confronts Little Red Ridinghood (Emily Voorhees) in the Murray Art's in the Park production of “Into the Woods.” (Photo courtesy Will Saxton)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Veteran director Will Saxton enthuses, “‘Into the Woods’ is the greatest musical that currently exists.” Having directed more than 30 musicals over the course of his 15 years of teaching theater, Saxton knows a thing or two about musical theater and will helm Murray Park Amphitheater’s July production of “Into the Woods.”

The plot of “Into the Woods” is about a collection of the Brothers Grimm fairytale characters and how their stories fit together. Then, after their stories end, it becomes about the consequences of their actions.

“The theme of ‘Into the Woods’ is about going out into the world, facing your fears, learning from your mistakes and accepting help from others,” Saxton said. “The play brings together the well-known characters of Cinderella, Jack (of beanstalk fame), Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel.

The play is based on the book by James Lapine, with music and lyrics composed by Stephen Sondheim. Debuting in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986, it premiered on Broadway in 1987, where it won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical. Disney adapted it to the big screen in 2014, and the movie received three Academy Award nominations.

“Into the Woods” is the fifth musical Saxton has directed for the Murray Arts in the Park summer musical series. He also directed “Pirates of Penzance” in 2007, “Grease” in 2009, “Oliver” in 2014 and “The Music Man” in 2017. Saxton teaches theater at Murray High School; he previously taught at Morgan High School. 

Saxton plans on staying true to the original production.

“There’s no need to do anything special to make it appeal to audiences,” he said. “I think the best thing you can do with any production of this show is to simply do justice to the material.”

All the actors in this show have extensive theatrical experience, both in educational theater and community theater in this area. 

Maren Abercrombie is cast as Cinderella. Previously, she played Leisel VonTrapp in Murray City’s production of “Sound of Music” and Belle in Murray’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Handling the role of Jack is Benjamin Stanford, who performed in “The Music Man” last summer. He just directed the world premiere of his first original musical, “Behind the Bookstore” at Murray High School this past March. Emily Voorhees plays Little Red Riding Hood. Previously she played Wendy in Murray City’s production of “Peter Pan” and also acted in “The Music Man.”

For the show’s Rapunzel angle, Kirby Saxton is cast as Rapunzel’s father, the Baker. He also performed in “Oliver” and “The Music Man” as well as multiple roles for the Open Community Theatre in Salt Lake City. Taking the role of the Baker’s Wife, for the second time in her career, is Amy Garrard. In addition to being on stage, she is also the show’s music director. Cari DeCoursey will handle the role of the Witch. She performed as Eponine in “Les Miserable” and Maria in “Sound of Music.”

“We have a fantastic cast, and I think the audience will enjoy the staging,” Saxton said. “There are a few surprises, but I want them to remain surprises.”

Behind the scenes, Shaun Davis will conduct the orchestra, Madison Howell will handle costumes and hair/makeup, Gaby DesVaux-Saxton will design and build the set, and Cade Denton will be the stage manager and prop master. 

Saxton described the play as “a show about everything. This show delves into the most complex emotions that humans feel in their lives and why they feel them. Yet it’s disguised as a fractured fairy tale. It’s about the fears and anxieties of leaving home, going into the world, learning lessons, experiencing loss, making choices and taking responsibility for the consequences. Every time I listen to it or watch it, I learn something new.”

“Into the Woods” will be presented on the Murray Park Amphitheater stage July 26–28, 30, 31 and Aug. 1. More information about all of Murray’s Arts in the Park season can be found online at: