SummerStock Cast Goes Into the Woods

by Jennifer Keeton
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SHEFFIELD-Innovative storytelling, beautiful sets, and—most importantly—phenomenal performances. That’s what audiences can expect at Into the Woods, the Ritz Theatre’s 2023 SummerStock musical. Performance dates are July 21-23 and 28-29. Showtimes are at 7 p.m., except for the July 23 performance, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are available at

Into the Woods offers a funny, exciting, and thoughtful twist on traditional fairy tales, with songs composed by the

Madison Hotchkiss (left) and Gary O. Fuqua Jr. (right)

legendary Stephen Sondheim. As a SummerStock at The Ritz production, the show features a cast and crew of young adults who have spent an intensive 6 weeks in training and rehearsals to prepare for this high-quality production.

“This year’s SummerStock cast is a group of exceptionally talented and hardworking artists,” says the show’s director, Suzanne Reese-Mills. “The Shoals area has so much to offer artistically, and it is always inspiring to see how many young people are actively carrying on that tradition in our community.”

One of these talented cast members is Gary O. Fuqua, Jr., a transfer student at the University of North Alabama who is studying Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre. They are performing the role of The Baker, one of the leads of Into the Woods.

Into The Woods has always been a dream show for me,” says Fuqua. They specifically hoped to play The Baker, due to the character’s “vulnerability and emotional complexity” as he conquers fear, grief, and uncertainty.

Carolina Mooring (foreground) and Avery Guinn (background)

Director Reese-Mills is similarly drawn to the play’s “intricately woven storylines, musical lines, and universal themes,” as the play “mixes the familiar with the new to create a roller coaster ride that makes us question our assumptions and laugh at our shared experiences.”

Into the Woods is the kick-off production for the Ritz Theatre’s 2023/2024 season, which will conclude with another Sondheim musical, Company. The show is also part of the theatre’s SummerStock legacy, which has been an annual Shoals tradition for over 30 years.

This year is Fuqua’s 6th time performing in SummertStock at The Ritz, and they keep coming back because of the “level of professionalism, kindness, education, and community that SummerStock continues to show me and countless others, year after year, season after season.”

As a budding professional performer, Fuqua says that “SummerStock is not only about building your resumé and learning, but it allows you to collaborate with people who are just as hungry and passionate as you are.” The SummerStock team spends their “entire summer to create something bigger than themselves, no matter how challenging that is.”

Tickets for Into the Woods are $15-$25, and season tickets are also available for $75. To purchase tickets or to learn more about the Tennessee Valley Art Association, which runs the Ritz Theatre, visit or call 256-383-0533.

The Ritz Theatre 2023/2024 Season:

Into the Woods

July 21-23 and 28-29

The Savannah Sipping Society

August 24-27

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