Epiphany Players Drama Ministry goes ‘Into the Woods’



The Epiphany Players Drama Ministry of Epiphany Lutheran Church presents Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s popular Tony Award-winning 1987 musical “Into the Woods,” a fractured fairy tale mashup of familiar and original storybook characters, through July 14.

This charming yet thought-provoking tale centers on Cinderella, Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” fame, Little Red Riding Hood, a childless baker and his wife, and a vengeful Witch who can rap. As each pursues their distinct desires, they become intertwined in witty, tender and tragic fashion, insightfully reflecting the joy and pain that simply arises from life’s complications. As Sondheim writes, “wishes come true — not free.”

“There are so many life lessons we learn from these characters as they go through trials and tribulations in the woods trying to get their wishes,” said director/choreographer Margo Russ, a Wright State University theatre graduate. “Life isn’t like the happily ever after Disney fairy tales we grew up with but more like the Brothers Grimm fairy tales we see throughout this show. In the end, the message is children will listen to what we tell them, what we expose them to. We don’t have to lie to them. We can tell them about life and they will learn and grow from it just like the rest of us. Life is messy but is still worth learning and growing from it throughout your whole life.”



As the colorful, sly and overprotective Witch attempting to shield Rapunzel, Kandis Gibson said she strives to convey the character’s humanity.

“She is a complex character,” Gibson said. “We see many sides of her. The desire to protect her child, the lack of fear of speaking her truth, and her disregard to what others think of her most resonate with me.”

She is also mindful of the musical’s ability to connect on multiple levels due to personal shared experiences.

“I feel ‘Into the Woods’ has endured all these years because the lessons and messages are relatable to our everyday lives and journeys as we experience them,” Gibson said.

More to learn of what you know

“Into the Woods” is among Sondheim’s seven Tonys for best score, particularly besting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” in 1988. In a departure from his more sophisticated, adult-oriented works, the show contains some of his most accessible melodies, including “Agony,” “Children Will Listen,” “Giants in the Sky,” “It Takes Two,” “Last Midnight,” and “No One is Alone.”

Michele Borns, who portrays Jack’s Mother, is returning to the Epiphany Players as a performer for the first time since starring as Maria in the 2011 production of “The Sound of Music.” In addition to delivering an outstanding performance as Jane Eyre in the 2004 production of “Jane Eyre, The Musical,” she also appeared in the troupe’s 2000 production of “Into the Woods” as Sleeping Beauty. Having served behind-the-scenes as producer in recent years, she’s grateful for the chance to return in a show that holds greater significance now that she is a mother.

“Returning to the stage has been an incredible gift and has been an unexpected journey,” Borns said. “Balancing family time, personal time to prepare, and time at rehearsals has been a humbling challenge. As a parent, hearing ‘Children Will Listen,’ puts a whole new light on the power of your words. Life has put many obstacles in front of me. I have learned you are never alone. This show shares that message loud and clear.”



The large, multi-generational cast includes principals Adi Overman as Narrator, Sophia Harvey as Cinderella, Sully Crinion as Jack, Keefe Carter as Milky White, Aaron Brewer as Baker, Kathy Meyer as Baker’s Wife, Liza Russ as Little Red Ridinghood, Nick Bellmyer as Mysterious Man, Kara Miller as Rapunzel, TJ Montgomery as Cinderella’s Prince, Nicko Nauseef as Rapunzel’s Prince/Wolf, Allison Crews as Stepmother, Tabitha Powell as Florinda, and Leah Kay Russ as Lucinda.

Someone is on your side

“Into the Woods,” produced by Megan Wean Sears with music direction by Judy Mansky, marks Epiphany’s 33rd summer musical. Sears and Gibson’s mother, the late Kay Frances Wean, spearheaded the Epiphany productions for over 15 years, and the ministry continues to evolve and flourish. As Gibson prepares to return to the stage for the first time since having children, she is excited to participate once again.

“I love that we have so many new faces and talent to add to this beautiful ministry this year,” Gibson said.

Russ, who directed and choreographed Epiphany’s excellent production of “Children of Eden” last year, is also well aware of Epiphany’s enduring legacy. She hopes to keep the troupe’s fundamentals of family and community strong.

“This program means so much to me,” Russ said. “It was literally my second home growing up as a child and where I made so many of my close friends I still have in my life. I want to be a part of creating that for the new generation of children going through the program.”


What: “Into the Woods”

When: July 10-14; 7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Epiphany Lutheran Church, 6430 Far Hills Drive, Centerville

Cost: $18 adults; $15 seniors, students and military

More info: epiphanydayton.org

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