On Halloween weekend, the College Conservatory of Music (CCM) students did something they haven't gotten to do in seven months: perform a musical with a live audience. 

The production of "Into the Woods" was directed and produced by CCM juniors and took place at the amphitheater in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. Because the amphitheater is not solely used for musicals, students had to rent their own lighting and sound equipment to put on the show.

Anna Chase Lanier, a musical theater junior, played the role of The Witch in the musical. She says that CCM is one of the first establishments to put on a show like this. 

"We were one of the first productions to happen since COVID around the world, but, especially in collegiate programs,” Lanier said. “We almost set a precedent, like, 'We can do this. It's different. It's weird. It's not normal, but we still can try.’”

On stage, students remained six feet apart and wore masks, all while acting, singing and dancing. 

Lanier says that that was one of the most challenging parts of the performance. 

"You can't follow your natural acting instinct and go touch your scene partner, or like get in their face," said Lanier. "Singing in a mask is unlike anything. Sondheim is known for super complex rhythms, so having to have extreme diction and still carry these notes and sound good was a huge challenge to maneuver." 

Similar to singing, using facial expressions with a mask was also a learning experience for Lanier. "We had to really use our eyes to emote that way, or with our voice, or our full body," she said.  

The opening night of "Into the Woods" drew a socially-distanced crowd of about 150 people. Their second night, Halloween, attracted a crowd of nearly 100. 

After the seven-month drought of not performing, which feels like decades for CCM students and musical-theater lovers, Lanier soaked up every second of the process.

"[At CCM] we are all used to just going, going, going and that just stopped,” Lanier said. “Honestly, it was such a good reminder of why I do this and why I love it. For all of us to come together and literally create something from scratch with all these obstacles to overcome was just a reminder of how special theater can be and performing really is.”

Even when things didn't go the way the cast had planned, it didn't matter. Lanier's biggest takeaway from her performance in "Into the Woods" was to live for today. 

"We would sometimes mess up this really hard music or miss a line in the show. Everyone in the audience and everyone on the stage was just so thrilled to be there and I think it was a really good learning experience to live in the moment," she said.