Merced County Times Newspaper
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PHOTOS BY SHAWN OVERTON

Playhouse Teens Shine In Summer Series Finale

Merced teens brought Sondheim’s legendary work to life last weekend for the final installation of Playhouse Merced’s Summer Stage Camp series, with the production of “Into The Woods Jr.”

This production was an incredible showcase of what young people in the local area are capable of. Every character was full of personality and was clearly the result of months of dedication and hard work. At times, it was hard to believe that the performers are so young because of the depth and attention to detail of the performances. While the highlight of the show is the music, the phenomenal quality of the costumes and stage décor were impossible to ignore.

“Into The Woods holds a very special place in my heart,” said Director Rachel Battisti, in a reflection on the production. “In 2011, I made my directorial debut with the full version of the show at the Denair Gaslight Theater, alongside a scrappy group of tees and twenty-somethings. I loved the show so much that I joined the Playhouse Merced production as the Stepmother. I got my associates degree from Merced College, joined Playhouse Merced’s education team, and now, in 2023, everything has come full circle.

“I am so proud of and grateful for these students. Whether I have worked with them for years or the first day of class was the first time we met, these students have grown in leaps and bounds. Aside from the friendship, kindness, and love that I have observed them showing each other, I’ve seen them all grow and blossom on stage. … I am also grateful for my co-instructors and Music Director (Zakarias Dimpel-Alvarez). They have gone above and beyond in every single moment, including taking on Stage Management duties, and providing a safe space for students who just needed to talk out their stress.”

Here is a list of all the wonderful performers who made this production possible:

Alex Navarro as The Child, Roxy Jensen as the Narrator, Gus Dietz as the Baker, Abigale Murphy as the Baker’s Wife, Emalia Turetzky as Cinderella, Beth Spencer (U/S Violette Harrison) as Cinderella’s Mother, Tatianna McCloud Mejino as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Franco Benavides as Cinderella’s Father, Emily Rose as Florinda, Tatum Penner as Lucinda, Reagan Gray as Cinderella’s Prince, Ramiro Valencia Chavez as Jack, Hadassah Hedrington as Jack’s Mother, Aubrie J Lopez as Milky White Puppeteer, Janai Chambers as the Witch, Emily Graham as Little Red Riding Hood, Mariah Daniel as Granny, Finn Krumm as Mysterious Man,  Gwendolyn Daniel as Rapunzel, Braxton Johns (U/S Damian Turetzky) as Rapunzel’s Prince, Gretchen Draper as the Steward, Damian Turetzky as the Wolf, Isaac Cocio as Hen Puppeteer, Rachel Ceccarelli as the Dance Captain, and Beth Spencer, Tatianna McCloud Mejino, Franco Benavides, Emily Rose, Taum Penner, Mariah Daniel, Damian Turetzky, Violette Harrison, Isaac Cocio, and Rachel Ceccarelli as the Tree Spirits.

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