Going Into the Woods with the Long Center: A GAHSMTA Student’s Experience

Lena Owns, an Austin high school student and participants and performer in the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards (GAHSMTA), had the opportunity at attend and perform at the Long Center’s exclusive pre-screening of Into the Woods earlier this month. She graciously blogs about her experience below.

A couple weeks back I had the incredible opportunity of not only viewing an advance screening of Into the Woods, but to perform songs from the musical before the movie with four other Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards students. I was in a constant state of disbelief. My friends and I just sang the same songs that people later heard Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick and Lilla Crawford sing. I felt a little bit of pride each time one of the songs we had performed was sung on the big screen. I felt as though I was bopping in my seat and singing along (probably bothering the row behind me). It was just so surreal, even if people were mumbling and munching on popcorn as we sang. How did I get here?

During our performances, each one of us received a hearty applause and we realized that the audience truly was enjoying it. This feeling continued throughout the movie. The audience seemed to really be listening. After strong performances, I could feel the audience’s need to clap and cheer, but they restrained. When I attended the movie a second time, I did not feel the same energy in the theatre. My friend and I, in addition to two other girls, were probably the few people truly invested in the movie. The strong performances that made me want to go to my feet seemed irrelevant to this audience the second time around. The energy in the theatre during the Long Center screening was magical and one of a kind.

The movie was well done and is one of the better movie musicals (along with Chicago and Phantom of the Opera (my personal opinion)). I will admit shamefully, I have not seen past a majority of the first act of the actual musical (of Into the Woods), but I have feedback from multiple people who have and they thoroughly enjoyed it. I did hear that some parts were missing but that’s a given in any original adaptation to a movie. Turning a musical into a movie without keeping the standard three hours is quite the challenge. Besides missing plot points, one of my only complaints is that the story lacked a touch of its darkness. Gruesome details like foot slicing, gauged eyes, and crushed characters were avoided by simply moving the camera. That was done to keep the movie child friendly but that is mistake that many parents and producers make- as the mature content and implied motifs are far past Fairytale Land.

I was pleasantly surprised by performance of the cast. Seeing theatre names such as Anna Kendrick and Daniel Huttlestone was a relief. Also, knowing that James Corben, Billy Magnussen, and Lilla Crawford had onstage Broadway experience was promising. I was worried about Meryl as the Witch, since I had become turned off to her singing in Mamma Mia, but she impressed me, not only with a stronger voice but (as always) incredible acting performance. I fell in love with Emily Blunt after this movie. I had no idea she could even sing, but she cast that doubt aside immediately. Now, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince was clearly a given since he’s such a babe already. It was evident that singing was not his forte but it wasn’t distracting (I’m talking about you Les Miserables). His portrayal and parody on the Prince was spot on. The movie was cast well and in the end, is one of the best musical to movie adaptations.

I am forever grateful to the Long Center for planning the event and Ginger Rogers for asking me to perform. It was a fantastic night for movie lovers, Broadway fans, and GAHSMTA students alike!


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