Adding ensemble to Into the Woods Jr.

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April 17, 2012
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Has anyone added an ensemble to Into the Woods Jr.? I'm wondering how doable this is, and how much opportunity for involvement the added ensemble would have. Thanks for your input.
4 answers

April 18, 2012
We've done Mulan and Bugsy, but not Fame. Both are fun for the kids. We were underwhelmed by the perusal of FAME (not right for our kids), but we've seen it produced and it was done well. Personally, Aladdin jr is one of my favorites.

April 18, 2012
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions, Sean and Cindy. I'm really interested in the show, but have concerns about the lack of large-cast numbers and dance. We typically have a cast of about 60. Do you think it would be feasible to add the ensemble to some of the songs, or is that a bit of a stretch? We are also looking at the Jr. versions of Mulan, Fame and Bugsy Malone. Has either of you done any of those shows, and if so, would you be willing to share your thoughts on them? Thanks again. I've been doing this for a few years now, but still feel like quite the novice.

April 17, 2012
The key in adding ensemble to any show is to not overwhelm the audience with additional bodies just for the sake of adding bodies. Given that, I think there are LOTS of opportunities in Into the Woods, Jr. to add MEANINGFUL ensemble roles: If your staging allows it, perhaps add a few customers/townspeople to the Baker's scene at the top of the show. Similarly, Cinderella's step mother could have OTHER household help, so it's not JUST Cinderella. If those other household helpers are treated BETTER than Cinderella, then it changes the dynamic between the step mother and sisters and Cinderella, showing that, even though they have the means to hire additional staff, they CHOOSE to mistreat Cinderella. For Jack & his mother, how do they make money? If they indeed sell Milky White's milk for income, perhaps have townspeople or customers stop by, only to be turned away by Jack's mother, indicating "no milk today". This shows how important the cow is to their livelyhood, and makes Jack's decision to do something desperate even more critical. The princes surely have their respective entourages. Give each of them a name and a job, and then dismiss them when appropriate. Have additional ensemble members serve as stage crew, but dress them as tradespeople (carpenters, thackers, etc.) to give them a reason for being there. Consider using basic animal hand puppets in the forest scenes, and assign additional ensemble members to those characters. You'll be developing new skills for those actors in the process of filling out your show. Hope this helps. - Sean

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April 17, 2012
Hi Pamela, Great question and fabulous advice Sean! Thanks for adding MEANINGFUL ensemble roles! Too many directors put kids on and they aren't TELLING THE STORY. Exploring the characters and "cause and effect" gives them motivation, sensible blocking, musical/vocal support as well as keeping kids AND their parents happy with more visibility. The forest scenes work beautifully to even incorporate younger characters. The puppets are brilliant. When adding ensemble, pay close attention to your use of planes, levels and proximity to tell the story clearly. Such a great show and kids truly love it! cr