Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off on REDWOOD Starring Idina Menzel at La Jolla Playhouse

Let's see what the critics have to say!

By: Feb. 26, 2024
Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off on REDWOOD Starring Idina Menzel at La Jolla Playhouse
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What did critics think of Redwood, the new musical now on stage in its World Premiere production at La Jolla Playhouse through March 31st, 2024 starring Idina Menzel

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.

Redwood marks Menzel's first return to the stage since appearing in Roundabout Theatre Company's production of the Joshua Harmon play Skintight in 2018, first off-Broadway and a year later at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Since then, Menzel has been attached to numerous stage projects including Jagged Little Pill (Menzel played Mary Jane in one of the workshops), and Wild: A Musical Becoming at American Repertory Theatre which was cancelled due to COVID.

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.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Lois Alter Mark, Forbes: Listening to Idina Menzel sing is pure joy anywhere. Listening to her sing in the intimate La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego will give you goosebumps and bring you to tears. The Tony Award winning superstar is making her debut there in Redwood, a must-see world-premiere musical whose next stop, in the tradition of 36 other La Jolla Playhouse productions, including Jersey BoysCome From Away and The Outsiders, has to be Broadway.

Pam Kragen, San Diego Tribune: “Redwood” has an honest and profoundly relatable story that’s told in an intimate, unique and breathtaking way. Unlike many new musicals that need more work before they move to Broadway, “Redwood” feels like it’s ready today. And technologically, it feels like the American musical of tomorrow.

ErinMarie Reiter, BroadwayWorld: At the end of the day, this story feels simplistic and muddled at the same time, making it difficult to be truly vested in any of these characters. It is unfortunate because this show has a strong cast, and is technically and visually gorgeous -  the story is just not as nuanced or interesting as it deserves.

Check back for more reviews as they come in.