Performances Begin Tonight for REDWOOD World Premiere Starring Idina Menzel at La Jolla Playhouse

The production will run through March 31, 2024 at the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.

By: Feb. 13, 2024
Performances Begin Tonight for REDWOOD World Premiere Starring Idina Menzel at La Jolla Playhouse
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Redwood, the new musical starring Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel, begins its World Premiere engagement tonight (February 13, 2024) at La Jolla Playhouse, where it will run through March 31, 2024 at the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre. Written and directed by Tony Award nominee Tina Landau, with music by Kate Diaz, and lyrics by Landau and Diaz, Redwood is conceived by Landau and Menzel, with additional contributions by Menzel.
In addition to Menzel, the world-premiere cast also includes Tony Award nominee De’Adre Aziza as ‘Mel,’ Nkeki Obi-Melekwe as ‘Becca,’ Michael Park as Finn, and Zachary Noah Piser as ‘Spencer,’ along with understudies Aja Simone Baitey, Giovanny Diaz de Leon, Lance Arthur Smith.
Redwood is a transportive new musical experience about one woman’s journey into the precious and precarious world of the redwood forest. Jesse (Menzel) is a successful businesswoman, mother and wife. She seems to have it all, but inside, her heart is broken. Finding herself at a turning point, Jesse leaves everyone and everything behind, gets in her car and drives… Thousands of miles later, she hits the ancient forests of Northern California, where a chance meeting and a leap of faith change her life forever. With its deeply personal story, refreshingly contemporary sound, and awe-inspiring design, Redwood explores the lengths –and heights– one travels to find strength, resilience and healing.
The Redwood creative team includes Kimberly Grigsby (Music Supervisor), Haley Bennett (Music Director), Jason Ardizzone-West (Scenic Designer), Toni-Leslie James (Costume Designer), Scott Zielinski (Lighting Designer), Jonathan Deans (Sound Designer), Hana S. Kim (Media Designer) and  Melecio Estrella, BANDALOOP (Vertical Movement and Staging). Casting is by The Telsey Office, Patrick Goodwin, CSA/Jacole Kitchen; Lora K. Powell is Stage Manager and Topaz Cooks is Assistant Stage Manager.

Tina Landau

she/her (Book/Lyrics/Concept/Direction) is a writer and director whose Broadway credits include The Spongebob Musical (also conceiver; Drama Desk & Outer Critics Circle winner, Best Direction and Best Musical, 12 Tony Award noms), Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, Bells Are Ringing (Tony noms), and the upcoming premiere of Paula Vogel’s Mother Play with Jessica Lange (Second Stage). Tina has written and directed productions, including the musicals Floyd Collins (with composer Adam Guettel, Playwrights Horizons, Old Globe, Goodman) and Dream True (with composer Ricky Ian Gordon, The Vineyard), as well as Ms. Blakk for President (with Tarell McCraney, Steppenwolf Theatre), Space (Steppenwolf, The Taper, The Public), Beauty (La Jolla Playhouse) and Stonewall: Night Variations (En Garde Arts). Her Off-Broadway productions include Bill Irwin and David Shiner’s Old Hats, Chuck Mee’s Big Love and Iphigenia 2.0 (all Signature), Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas (NYTW), and many works by Tarell McCraney including Head of Passes, In the Red and Brown Water (both at the Public) and Wig Out! (Vineyard). Most recently, Tina directed the musical Transparent at CTG in Los Angeles. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at Little Island in NYC and is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre, where her over 20 productions include McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays, The Time of Your Life (also Seattle Rep, ACT), The Wheel with Joan Allen and The Doppelganger with Rainn Wilson. Tina’s work has been recognized by the Tonys, Drama Desks, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel, Obies and many more. She teaches regularly and is the author, with Anne Bogart, of The Viewpoints Book.


(Composer/Lyricist/Orchestrator/Arranger) is an LA-based composer-songwriter-producer. A newcomer to musical theatre, Kate has written songs and scores for film and TV, as well as for trailers and commercials. She orchestrates, arranges and produces for herself and others, and is also a session vocalist and guitarist.

Idina Menzel

(Jesse/Concept/Additional Contributions) has won a Tony, Obie, and Drama League Award for her work in the theater. Broadway: If/Then, Wicked, Aida, Rent. Off-Broadway: Skintight (Roundabout), See What I Wanna See (Public Theatre), The Vagina Monologues (West Side Theatre), The Wild Party (MTC), Hair (Encores). Regional: Wicked (San Francisco), If/Then (Washington, DC). Menzel also premiered Wicked in the West End, receiving the Theatregoers Choice Award. Film: You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, Which Way to the Stage? (Documentary), Enchanted 2: Disenchanted, Frozen 2, Uncut Gems, American Murderer, Cinderella, Frozen, Enchanted, Ask the Dust, Rent. TV: Beaches, Glee, PBS special, “Barefoot at the Symphony,” (accompanying live album). Idina prides herself on the importance of new musicals creating original roles and promoting young composers. Thanks to the two amazing men in her life, her son Walker and husband Aaron, for their love and support. Thank you to the redwood for teaching us about resilience, patience, and nature’s ability to help us heal.


(Mel) La Jolla Playhouse: Debut. Broadway: Passing Strange (Tony nominee), Women on the Verge, A Night with Janis Joplin. Off-Broadway: Passing Strange, Detroit ’67, Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Eve’s Song, Privacy (Public/NYSF); Ask Your Mama (Carnegie Hall).  Regional: Passing Strange (Berkeley Rep); The Hot L Baltimore (Steppenwolf); Good Goods (Yale); Clyde’s (Goodman); Paradise Blue, Johnny Baseball (Williamstown). Film/TV: Flint Strong (MGM), Red Hook Summer, Passing Strange (40 Acres & A Mule), The Breaks (VH1), Ghost: PowerBook II, Run the World (Starz), She’s Gotta Have It (Netflix). @deadreaziza

Aja Simone Baitey

they/them (Understudy, Mel/Becca). La Jolla Playhouse: Debut. National Tours: Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ Superstar. Cruise Ship: Six (Norwegian Cruise Lines). Education: B.F.A. from Pace University.


he/him (Understudy, Spencer). La Jolla Playhouse: The Untitled Unauthorized Hunter S. Thompson Musical. Regional: Witnesses (CCAE Theatricals); The Ferryman (New Village Arts); Lost in Yonkers (Scripps Ranch Theatre). Featured actor in Hershey Felder’s The Assembly. Education: Graduate from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, majoring in Musical Theatre.

Nkeki Obi-Melekwe

she/they (Becca). La Jolla Playhouse: Debut! Nkeki starred as Tina in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway as well as on the West End. Her theatre credits also include Sheik & Sater's Alice by Heart (MCC, dir. Jessie Nelson), Half Time (Paper Mill Playhouse, dir. Jerry Mitchell). Her television credits include recently starring in Antoine Fuqua's King Shaka (Showtime), as well as guest starring on Bull (CBS) and Smilf (Showtime). For Ehioma. @nkekio

Michael Park

(Finn). Off-Broadway: Hello Again, Violet, Burnt Part Boys. Broadway: Carousel, Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Grammy), Little Me, How to Succeed..., Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tuck Everlasting, Dear Evan Hansen (Grammy). TV: As the World Turns (Emmy), The Good Wife, House of Cards, Mindhunter, You, Stranger Things Season 3, Tales of the City, The Family, Dash & Lily, Blue Bloods, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Bull, Saint X, Law & Order, Special Ops: Lioness.

Zachary Noah Piser

he/him (Spencer). Zach is a Hapa, Jewish actor based in NYC. La Jolla Playhouse: Debut. Broadway/Off-Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen (Evan), KPOP (OBC, Brad), Wicked (Boq), Barrow Street Theatre's West End transfer of Sweeney Todd (Tobias). TV: In Your Dreams (Netflix, upcoming). Zach has also performed at concert venues internationally, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Shanghai Grand Theatre and more. Bay Area native, Northwestern grad. Love to my team, my family, Adam and Scout. @zach_piser

LANCE Arthur Smith

he/him (Understudy, Finn) Broadway LAB: October Sky (also Fight Director). San Diego: Like They Magical (La Jolla Playhouse DNA); How the Grinch Stole Christmas, October Sky, Life After (Old Globe); Spamalot, The Bodyguard, My Fair Lady (Welk); Million Dollar Quartet, Around the World in 80 Days (Lamb’s Players); La Cage aux Folles, Bed and Sofa (Cygnet); Victor/Victoria, Mamma Mia!, Guys and Dolls (Moonlight); Intimate Apparel (San Diego Rep); Tomfoolery, Romance/Romance (North Coast Rep); A Piece of My Heart (Mo`olelo); Tuesdays with Morrie (Vista’s Broadway Theater). Regional: Julius Caesar (Kingsmen Shakespeare); The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Merchant of Venice (ARK); Carousel, Grease (PCPA).

Photo credit: Jenna Selby