Ryerson Musical Theatre Company goes into its third year with “Into the Woods”

Image courtesy of Isabella Perrone.

It’s a warm Sunday in January, and in the very far corner of Kerr Hall East, members of the Ryerson Musical Theatre Company (RMTC) are gathered to rehearse for the last time before they have access to the stage at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. It’s there the company will showcase the James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim musical Into The Woods for five shows, starting tomorrow and running until Feb. 17.

The group has been preparing for the show in much the same way almost weekly since September. The cast is gathered, huddled at various pockets in the room in plain clothes. Director Jarrett Stoll talks to a small group before taking his seat among a sea of backpacks crammed beneath the classroom’s blackboard.  

Suddenly, music starts to spill out of the far corner of the room where a small group of the production’s orchestra is gathered. First-year creative industries student Olivia DeRoche, who stars as the Witch in the show, begins to lead a number built around terrorizing another of the show’s leads, Jack, portrayed by Robert Black.

In the tightly choreographed sequence, DeRoche projects a power in her voice that was amplified by an ensemble embedded around her. As she slammed her lyrics into the floor, their bodies followed. Even in a sunlit Kerr Hall classroom, with half the cast in jeans, the number managed to hit its targeted level of heightened dread.

Heading into their third year, the company continues to serve a unique niche in Ryerson’s theatre community. Detached from the Ryerson School of Performance (RSP), it’s open to any and all students. In fact, the vast majority of its members — be they onstage, backstage or on the executive team — come from almost everywhere but RSP. It operates as a community-based musical theatre company where any student has a chance to immerse themselves in the top-to-bottom construction of a show.

Sarah Do Couto, a second-year journalism student playing Little Red Riding Hood, has been participating in theater since she was eight years old. When RMTC gave its open call for auditions in September, she booked a time slot, seeing it as a chance to continue to do shows during her post-secondary career despite not having theatre as her area of academic focus.

“I always get audition jitters so I was nervous afterwards … Once I got the email though I was pumped. Red is so much fun. She’s loud and boisterous and she’s just so much her own person. It’s almost therapeutic to slip into that mindset while performing,” Do Couto says.

Into The Woods will be RMTC’s third show, looking to build off the momentum of its inaugural and sophomore years.

“The atmosphere was pretty surreal if I’m being honest,” noted Stoll when asked about the temperature of the room in rehearsals this last week. “There will always be nervous vibes and that reaction of ‘Is this real? This is a real thing that we are doing,’ but it’s also that cumulating feeling of almost a year of work coming together and being just about ready. It really puts the whole process into perspective.”

Tickets for Into The Woods are still available.