Merit Stages 1st Full Musical, “Into the Woods JR.”

Merit’s First Fully-Staged Production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods JR.” Musical a Marvelous Success!


Congratulations to our stellar directors, cast, and crew who went “into the woods” and “out of the woods” on Merit’s Anne & Howard Gottlieb Hall stage August 19 and 20, 2017. Based on the popular book by James Lapine and with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, audience members enjoyed a delightful and hilariously entertaining fairy tale adventure.

Directed by Merit’s Conservatory Solo Voice Program faculty members A.J. Wester and Julian Chin, the talented cast was comprised of members of Merit’s Conservatory and 2017 Summer Voice Camp, and several students from Merit’s proud partner Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts). Special shout-outs and “hats off” to Milo Bue and Cat Wilson for the excellent set and lighting design, and to Melanie Lunardi, Merit’s Voice & Guitar Program Director, for waving her “magic wand” to help make the smallest of production details come together.

A huge “thank you” to the parents, family, and Merit friends who supported the cast members through a rigorous audition and rehearsal schedule. You’re truly the best.

Merit’s production of Into the Woods JR. was partially funded by Caerus Foundation, Inc., a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Shure Incorporated.

INTO THE WOODS JR was presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials were supplied by MTI.

Cast Members

Jordan Davis, ChiArts, Merit Conservatory
Miranda Dianovsky, ChiArts
Arlecia Ebert, Merit Conservatory
Carl Faust, Merit Conservatory
Benjamin Gourdji, Merit Summer Voice Camp
Josephine Harris, Merit Conservatory
Maya Lopez, Merit Conservatory
Henry Lunn, Merit Conservatory
Lance Mahome, Merit Summer Voice Camp
Ashley O’Toole, Merit Conservatory
Joanna Starr Poulos, ChiArts
Michael Poulosophos, ChiArts, Merit Conservatory
Jennifer Quintero, Merit Conservatory
Daniela Reyes, ChiArts, Merit Conservatory
Aliah Robinson, ChiArts
Grayson Schementi, Merit Summer Voice Camp
Nina Sharda, Merit Summer Voice Camp
Niani Soto, ChiArts, Merit Conservatory

Enjoy these photos and reflections from cast members about their experience.




 “I was thrust into this show and it was great! Because of A.J., my acting and singing’s been brought to a new level.”

“We’re all so passionate about acting and singing. It’s great to have everyone enjoy the acting and singing together. No matter your role.”

“Playing the witch, I had to focus on finding intention in my actions because, although the witch is seen as being mean and evil, her one goal throughout the show is to protect Rapunzel who she thinks of as being her daughter. So, through Merit, particularly, through the direction that Ms. Wester, our director, and Mr. Chin, our music director gave, I found it easier to find that intention.”

“It was interesting to be thrown into the production and learn with a different group, step by step, about musical theatre. Very memorable experience.” 

A.J. helped us know exactly what to do. Being organized, remembering our lines, etc. She is also really great at giving advice…reminding us to learn from our mistakes and keep going. And since we’re teenagers, she could help us learn to deal with insecurity, anxiety, and to prepare ourselves.”

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