It was slated to run for less than two weeks last May off-Broadway. Then it moved to Broadway in June for a “strictly limited” engagement, which has been extended into January. And now, the celebrated City Center Encores revival of “Into the Woods” is going coast to coast — with an official launch at the Kennedy Center in February.
Washington will be one of eight stops for a production that proved to be more popular than anyone anticipated. The acclaimed concert-style show will run in the Kennedy Center Opera House for 30 performances from Feb. 23 to March 19 and will feature stars from the Broadway version. Among those scheduled for D.C.: Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block as the Baker and Baker’s Wife; Montego Glover as the Witch; Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf; David Patrick Kelly as the Narrator; and Cole Thompson as Jack.
And of course, Kennedy Kanagawa as Milky White.
“I saw the show first at City Center and fell in love with it,” said Jeffrey Finn, the Kennedy Center’s vice president and executive producer of theater. “It was a perfect telling of ‘Into the Woods.’ And after I saw it again on Broadway, I asked, ‘Is there any world where this incredible production can come to the Kennedy Center?’”
Sometimes with Broadway hits, a producer’s fondest wish is granted. That is certainly apt for a 1987 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine about fairy tale characters venturing into a forest to discover what happens after they get their heart’s desire. In the case of a show that has to sell a whole lot of tickets in the 2,364-seat Opera House, it remains to be seen how satisfyingly the producers’ hopes are fulfilled.
“What’s so extraordinary is this road,” said Broadway producer and theater owner Jordan Roth, whose St. James Theatre houses “Into the Woods.” “From what was to be two weeks at City Center, to what was possibly to be eight weeks at the ‘James,’ then became six months at the James, which then became a journey around the country. Each of those steps was totally unpredictable. And yet the path opens before it.”
What makes the Washington engagement a little more challenging is that the region is already host to a revival of “Into the Woods,” at Arlington’s Signature Theatre, a company that has long focused on Sondheim musicals. Signature’s version runs through Jan. 29. Since the Kennedy Center engagement puts tickets on sale to subscribers on Tuesday, and to the general public at noon on Dec. 12, there will be some marketing overlap.
“We hope that there is room in the market for two very different productions,” Maggie Boland, Signature’s managing director, said in a statement. “Signature’s intimate ‘Into the Woods’ invites audiences right into a fully realized storybook adventure. In our 276-seat theatre the audience sees every expression, hears every note from the 15-piece orchestra and feels the Giant crashing through the woods. The experience of Signature’s new production and the Kennedy Center’s tour of the Broadway concert in the Opera House couldn’t be more different.”
The tour of “Into the Woods” will tune up in Buffalo for several performances and then officially open in Washington. It will also be heading to Philadelphia, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Other members of the cast segueing from Broadway include Katy Geraghty as Little Red Ridinghood, Nancy Opel as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Aymee Garcia as Jack’s Mother, Ta’Nika Gibson as Lucinda, Brooke Ishibashi as Florinda and Alysia Velez as Rapunzel. The casting of some roles, such as Cinderella and Rapunzel’s Prince, have yet to be announced.
Lear deBessonet, who serves as artistic director of the City Center Encores series and directed its “Into the Woods,” has been gratified by the response to the production. “As an artist you have to show up for the work and pour everything into it,” she said. “You have to have your own internal reason for doing it. For me, it is wanting to share this glorious music and then to see it just take wing and fly.”
Actually, “Into the Woods” is not the most important new production in her life. That would be her 2-month-old daughter, Selah. DeBessonet noted that Selah was hearing Sondheim’s songs even before she entered the world — including, aptly enough, that mellifluous “Into the Woods” ballad: “Children Will Listen.”
“Into the Woods” tickets go on sale to Kennedy Center subscribers on Tuesday; to members on Thursday and to the general public on Dec. 12 at noon. kennedy-center.org.