BWW Interviews: INTO THE WOODS' Jenna Russell


Hi Jenna, welcome back to London and to the Open Air Theatre - it's not your first time in Regent's Park, is it?

No, I was there back in 1992, but that feels like a lifetime ago. I had a lovely time there, so it's wonderful to be going back. We're not rehearsing there at the moment -we're over in Toynbee Hall, in Aldgate East - so I'm looking forward to getting back there for technical rehearsals in a few weeks.

Tell us a bit about your character in Into The Woods.

She's the Baker's Wife - she and her husband are the two made-up characters that don't really exist in fairy tales. They're used as a device to take you through the story. They are desperate for a child, and when they get one, it's not at all what they expect...

The show isn't done that often, so it'll be great to see it with such a fantastic cast.

It was done about 20 years ago at the Phoenix, and then about 13 years ago at the Donmar, when I played a different part, but this is its first major outing since then. It's not been done outside, though, and it really lends itself to an open-air setting.

And it's your return to London musicals having been on Broadway in Sunday in the Park With George...

That was a dream come true. It was a dream come true in many ways, actually - I found out I was pregnant the week before we started on Broadway, and we'd been trying for a baby for five years, so I have great memories of New York, and a little girl who's now 16 months old.

I was going to ask - when I was reading up on your biography online I was trying to work out the dates, because I didn't think you could possibly have done a Broadway show like that when you were pregnant...

Ha! I only told about three other members of the company - she was such a wanted baby - but my hormones were racing and I was fretting about wearing a corset, and doing such an emotional show and hoping it wouldn't do anything awful. So now I'm back in London and doing another Sondheim!

Are you a big Sondheim fan, or has it just worked out that you've done several Sondheim shows?

I think everyone who knows his work is a fan. It's such a pleasure to do. I remember when I was doing Guys and Dolls and Douglas Hodge said to me, "In this show, all the characters mean what they say." It's not the case with Sondheim - you're always finding new things and different angles, it offers a lot of possibilities. And it works because it's brilliant. I've been a fan since I was 16 and was part of the ‘Stephen Sondheim Group' - we used to sing bits of Pacific Overtures! It's a great honour to perform his work.

And what are your plans when you finish Into The Woods?

I don't know yet! I'm still a relatively new mum so it's a balancing act. My husband was in a play at the National while I looked after the baby, and now he's looking after her while I do this, so it'll be his turn next. There's a job I'm hoping for in the New Year. But I do love musicals; it's a great joy doing them. The people are always great, and it's such a happy job - perhaps it's because singing is such a pleasure.

Jenna Russell stars in Into The Woods at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.


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