Updated Fairy Tales Find a Home at Phoenix Productions

September 21, 2017
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Gina Teschke of Highlands will star as Little Red Riding Hood and Victoria Keiser of Hazlet will play the witch in Phoenix Production’s “Into the Woods” at the Count Basie Theatre Sept. 15-24.

By Mary Ann Bourbeau |

RED BANK – Phoenix Productions has tapped into Stephen Sondheim for its next production, staging “Into the Woods” at the Count Basie Theatre from Sept. 15-24.
“Into the Woods” is a modern take on classic fairy tales.

With music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, the Tony Award-winning show is a musically sophisticated dark comedy following a baker and his wife (who wish to have a child), Cinderella (who wishes to attend the king’s festival) and Jack (who wishes his cow would give milk.) When the baker and his wife learn they cannot have a child because of a witch’s curse, they embark on a journey to break the spell. Although everyone’s wish is ultimately granted, the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later with disastrous results.

“The complex nature of the material that Sondheim wanted the world to see is brought out in a way that’s real and touches your emotions,” said Victoria Keiser of Hazlet, who plays the role of the witch. “I know the audience will be pleasantly surprised at what is in store for them on this trip ‘into the woods.’ ”

The show is directed by Chris Tomaino and produced by Chrissy Paccillo. Andrew Macirowski is musical director, Tom Martini is set designer, Linda Fitzgerald is costume designer and Anthony Calicchio is lighting designer.

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Gina Teschke, a junior at Henry Hudson Regional High School in Highlands, has been cast in a lead role as Little Red Riding Hood, who treks through the forest to bring her grandmother some baked goods. Gina is actively involved in the New Jersey theater community, having been cast in about 30 shows at venues including Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, Villagers Theatre in Somerset, Spring Lake Theatre and Shining Star Players in New York City. This is her first performance with Phoenix Productions.

“I was just hoping to get into the ensemble and I got my dream role,” she said. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you how excited I am. My character is a fierce young, tough badass. It’s such a cool role!”

In addition to acting in school shows and at area theaters, Gina takes private singing and dancing lessons. She plans to go to college for musical theater with dreams of making it to Broadway.

“Being involved with the Count Basie Theatre is a huge step in my career,” she said. “Everyone in the cast is so talented and I’m honored to create art with them. The show is a truly a magical piece of theater that everyone needs to experience.”

Since she was a child, Gina’s parents instilled in her a love of music, especially Broadway show tunes. Her mother sings opera and her father was in a band and writes music.

“My family is so supportive of what I do,” she said. “My dad taught me how to sing with an orchestra. My mom helps me with my songs. I remember we were always in the car singing things like Rodgers and Hammerstein.”

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Gina said “Into the Woods” is one of the first shows that made her want to pursue a career in the theater.

“When I first heard the music, I fell in love with it,” she said. “That’s how I got the bug. And I love the storyline, that no one is ever alone.”

Whenever she can, Gina tries to get her friends hooked on show tunes, taking them into New York and introducing them to different productions.

“I try to educate them a little bit,” she said. “They’re into Justin Bieber. I’m more into Judy Garland and Patti LuPone.” Phoenix Productions is a nonprofit community theater that has produced more than 100 full-scale Broadway musicals since 1988. Its production of “Into the Woods” will be staged at the Count Basie Theatre at 8 p.m. Sept. 15, 16, 22 and 23, and 3 p.m. Sept. 17 and 24. Tickets are $22 to $32 and are available by calling the Count Basie box office at 732-842-9000 or visiting www.countbasietheatre.org.

Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at mbourbeau@tworivertimes.com.

This article was first published in the Sept. 7-14, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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