Broadway Beyond Louisville Review: INTO THE WOODS at Tennessee Performing Arts Center

Running Now - May 28th at TPAC

By: May. 25, 2023
Broadway Beyond Louisville Review: INTO THE WOODS at Tennessee Performing Arts Center

Into the Woods originally premiered on Broadway in 1987, and since then has become one of Stephen Sondheim’s most known and celebrated works. The show is a staple in community and regional theatres as several revivals and adaptions have come and gone though out the years, and in May of 2022, a new star-studded concert production would open at New York City Center Encores before hastily transferring to Broadway in June of that same year. To the delight of Sondheim fans, the production kept extending before it closed in January of 2023 with a last-minute, 10-city tour starting this past February. What makes this tour so special is the caliber of the cast, as most of the closing cast on Broadway agreed to reprise their roles on tour… which is almost entirely unheard of these days.

The story is fairly straightforward, as it follows many of the Grimm fairy tale characters in their quest for Happy Ever After, what subverts the genre is that the authors dare to ask “what comes after Happy Ever After”, which narratively gives Into the Woods a uniquely dark and melancholy edge as we see these characters fight to get what they have, then watch it slowly slip through their fingers. 

The star-studded cast is led by Tony Award winner Stephanie J. Block and Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker’s Wife and the Baker respectively. They’re a real-life couple, so their chemistry is justly wonderful, but I cannot express how amazing their individual performances are as well. Block’s Baker’s wife is witty but overwhelmed, and ruthless in her desperation to have a child. She plays the character’s humor and pathos with ease, and Block has one of the best voices in theatre today. Arcelus’ Baker is sincere and warm. He brings out a lot of the character’s imperfections and truly endears himself to the audience. 

Tony Award nominee Montego Glover plays the Witch with a lot of fire and sass. Glover has no problems commanding the stage for a showstopper like “Last Midnight”, but her more tender moments, while good, could use a bit more heft. Tony nominee Gavin Creel plays both Cinderella’s Prince as well as The Wolf to great effect. Creel’s wolf is a sly and peppy showman, while his Prince is silly and conceded in the most deliciously comical way. Katy Geraghty’s Little Red Riding Hood is an absolute scene-stealing delight. Her comedic timing is unmatched, and her chemistry with the cast as a whole is wonderful as she effortlessly and expertly bounces off everyone with ease. Diane Phelan’s Cinderella is quite nice. The character is definitely the “straight man” compared to the chaos around her, but she holds her own and sings Sondheim’s complicated score beautifully.

It’s worth noting that this production started its life as a concert, and as such is fairly minimal in its execution. A base set and an onstage orchestra are all we really get in terms of thrills. However, this production has brilliant use of puppetry in many ways (one being the scene-stealing Milkly White, brought to life by the fabulous Kennedy Kanagawa), that add some much-needed fun and spectacle to the production. Though there aren’t many frills, what makes this production work so well is an inherent trust of the material, and the fact that that material is being delivered by some of the best Broadway performers working today. 

There are numerous reasons to recommend this production of Into the Woods, but the biggest in my mind is the near-flawless all-star cast bringing this intricate and beautiful story to audiences night after night on the road. They make this production an event, that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and likewise shouldn’t be missed. 

INTO THE WOODS

Now - May 28th

Tennessee Performing Arts Center

505 Deaderick St.

Nashville, TN 37219



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