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Punahou Theatre Presents Into the Woods

Punahou’s fall production of “Into the Woods” featured 50 middle- and high-school students in a modern interpretation of the Tony Award-winning musical, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine and inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

A Fantastic Musical Universe

By Rachel Breitweser ’03

Punahou’s fall production of “Into the Woods” featured 50 middle- and high-school students in a modern interpretation of the Tony Award-winning musical, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine and inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The colorful and elaborate production created a fantastic musical universe with Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and his beanstalk), a baker and his wife and a witch who casts a curse on them.

After extensive rehearsals, the student actors, musicians and crew members staged four successful performances in November, under the direction of Bryce Chaddick.

From left: Milica Prisic Smagghe ’21 (Florinda), Malia Munley ’19 (Witch), Kailee Brandt ’21 (Little Red Riding Hood) and Kai Durkin ’19 (Narrator/Mysterious Man).

Behind the Curtain with the Baker

Nick La‘a ’19 is often seen on campus strumming a guitar or commanding the nearest piano. Even as a young performer, the charismatic, yet down-to-earth musician, brings a rich soulfulness to his singing. His comfort on the stage has developed since he was a young boy. Most recently, he was cast as the Baker in Punahou’s fall musical production of “Into the Woods.”

What inspired you to join the production?
Music has been my life since I was five, and musical theatre has been a way to merge music and acting. “Into the Woods” was my seventh production at Dillingham Hall throughout middle school and the Academy. The last Academy show I was in was “Les Misérables.” This year, my senior year, I wanted to participate in one last stage production here at Punahou because theatre has been a huge part of my Punahou experience.

How has theatre influenced you?
Performing is an art form, and theatre is an outlet for that. It’s fulfilling because you are allowed to completely transform and let go of your outside emotions and be immersed into a show. It’s also been a way to hone my own music, and the performances over my life have helped with stage presence and performing in front of an audience. Lately, I’ve been able to branch out on my own with weekly gigs. Theatre, however, stretches me outside of my walls.

What’s it like being a cast member?
Every day, there are three hours of rehearsal. We constantly practice being on stage. You have to memorize lines, fully marinate in a scene and understand it. It’s always sad after a show has finished its last performance. I don’t look forward to closing night. The group spends months together and, although friendships can last forever, you won’t all be in that same exact time and space again.

How was this show unique?
Stephen Sondheim is different from any other writer. The music is so detailed. Everything – every word and note, has a meaning – and there are deep messages and many layers. Mr. Chaddick’s way of interpreting and directing the musical was brilliant. I gained additional insight into my role through (Broadway veteran) William Falk ’76, who coached the principal actors. William had met Sondheim and was able to share the writer’s intention behind the characters. Through that, I could see even more into the Baker and show that to the audience.

Additional photo caption:
Top: Michelle Okamura ’19 (Baker’s Wife), Nick La‘a ’19 (Baker) and Malia Munley ’19 (Witch) in a scene from “Into the Woods.”


Malia Munley ’19 performs as the Witch.
Kenny Aune ’20 in a scene as Rapunzel's Prince.
Jackson Saunders ’21 as the Wolf.
From left: Shane Komeiji ’24 (Ensemble), Michele Okamura ’19 (Baker's Wife), Ember Isabelo ’23 (Ensemble), Mari Shoop ’21 (Rapunzel), La‘ikū Layaoen ’24 (Ensemble) and D.T. Alam ’25 (Ensemble).