“Into the Woods,” the 1986 Broadway musical that picked up three Tony Awards and is currently enjoying its second successful revival, will be reimagined at the Signature Theatre, under the direction of artistic director Matthew Gardiner.
“This is a show I have been in love with since I was a little kid and saw the PBS broadcast with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason, and as we get older, it takes on new meaning, and that’s one of the wonderful things about this show,” Gardiner says. “At different stages in our life, we gleam new things from this wonderfully rich and complex musical.”
Though the incredible music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine will remain, the setting has been changed into a long-forgotten nursery of a once grand Victorian house in the woods.
The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests, and just when it seems like there’s a happily ever after, the plot takes some unusual turns as the characters learn there’s a danger in what you wish for.
“This is a show that speaks to all ages,” Gardiner says. “It’s a different experience for every age group that sees this show. I think particularly post-pandemic, the show hits on an even deeper level than it did for me before.”
“Into the Woods” has been staged at Signature twice before in its history, and it’s a show that has played the D.C. Metro numerous times through the years, so Gardiner wanted to find a way to make the show feel new and exciting.
“I dug into the history of fairy tales, which led me down a path of the Victorian era and romanticism, and I started to imagine what if the show was set in this nursery that had been abandoned, and the outside world had begun to take it back over,” he says. “That provided a lot of exciting possibilities in the story telling.”
For instance, Cinderella could stumble out of a fire place, the Baker and his Wife could come out of a wardrobe and the birds that Cinderella sings to could be a mobile on a crib that has been left behind.
Jake Loewenthal, who plays the Baker, notes the cast are all passionate about the show and excited to bring a different version to the stage like Signature always does.
“This show takes characters and stories that we all have very different and intimate relationships to—stories that connect us to our roots and families—and then subverts them in exciting and surprising ways,” he says. “The actors involved are so smart; songs I’ve seen a million times before, I’m seeing in new ways. This is a show that everyone loves and everyone can enjoy.”
The cast also includes a host of Signature favorites, including Erin Weaver as the Baker’s Wife; Nova Y. Payton as the Witch; Alex De Bard as Little Red; David Merino as Jack; Katie Mariko Murray as Cinderella; and a tremendous cast of 20.
“I feel extremely lucky to have what I consider to be my dream cast for ‘Into the Woods,’” Gardiner says. “This is a musical about community and responsibility, so from the onset, it was really important to me that this room full of artists feels like a community, and we have that at Signature.”
Signature’s “Into the Woods” run Nov. 9 through Jan. 29, and is the first of three Sondheim productions featured in Signature’s 2022-23 season.
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