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CHAMPAIGN — “Into The Woods,” a collection of fairy tale stories, is a musical that starts out PG then turns PG-13 in the second act.

So in the Urbana Park District version — with a cast made up of only young people — there’s even one showing that cuts off at the end of the first act for the youngest audience members. The full version opens tonight at the Parkland College Miner Theatre.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, “Into The Woods” welds together the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring what happens when people get their wishes. It doesn’t always work out well.

But the actors are definitely having a lighter time before rehearsal.

Jack wishes his cow would give some milk. Milky-White is his best friend, but he has to go to the market to sell the cow, and ends up with some magic beans.

Kyle Widener, a Mahomet-Seymour student, has “a really big scene with a giant.”

“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion in the role.”

It’s odd playing Jack’s mother for Ameriah Lockett of Urbana.

“I’m 14 and he’s 16,” she said of the casting. “But you forget about that in the show.”

Zoe Bowers, a 17-year-old Urbana High senior, plays Cinderella.

“As a little girl, a lot of us looked up to her, and I was certainly one of them,” said Bowers, who sang a cappella with her high school group at Carnegie Hall in New York earlier this year.

“But this isn’t the classic Cinderella. You can see her becoming empowered. That’s a lot of fun.”

Ally Miller is a senior at Central.

She plays the Witch, though she seems fairly nice when she’s out of character.

But Miller said that, in fact, “Into The Woods” gets you to see a more human aspect of her character.

She has stolen Rapunzel, but she becomes “her adopted mother,” Miller said.

“With Rapunzel, you get to see her loving side,” she added.

And she gets to die for the first time.

The actors agree that the full show might not be suitable for the youngest.

“Act 1 has an emotional ending,” with many wishes granted, but watch out for Act 2, Widener said.

Something dramatic is a nice change for Miller.

“Last year we did ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ and everybody seems to love it. This is nice and different,” Bowers said.

She added that this “Into The Woods” is a true group effort.

“Everybody’s on stage at least one time no matter how the audition went,” she said.

Bowers loves that sense of ensemble.

“We’ve really gotten to get to know each other,” she said.



Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).