Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Into the Woods
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of The High Ground and Kinky Boots

Kennedy Kanagawa, left, and Cole Thompson
with Milky White

Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
The rapturous, Broadway star-heavy production of Into the Woods now on tour at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington demonstrates that there is no single way to present Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical epic of fairy-tale characters caught in real-world situations. It also offers a thoroughly new perspective for audiences who recently saw Signature Theatre's self-contained, chamber-sized take on the work.

This production began with a limited run as part of the New York City Center Encores! series, but the audience response was so overwhelming that it moved to Broadway for five months, with numerous Broadway luminaries joining the cast for brief runs during that time.

This flexible casting pattern continued during the opening weekend in Washington, when Sebastian Arcelus was injured and his understudy, Jason Forbach, stepped in (with a sweet, self-effacing performance) as the Baker. Andy Karl, a Broadway cast veteran not in the usual tour cast, returned to his former role of Rapunzel's Prince, usually played by Forbach.

That said, the physical production is simple. David Rockwell's scenic design consists of three model houses suspended above the actors' heads, representing the homes of major characters, and a few trees; the sumptuous orchestra conducted by John Bell is visible at the rear of the stage.

Director Lear deBessonet has focused her energy on getting the richest, most detailed performances she can out of her entire cast. Everyone gets a standout moment, such as Nancy Opel as the extravagantly nasty stepmother of Cinderella (Diane Phelan); Katy Geraghty as a Little Red Ridinghood who will not be ignored; Rayanne Gonzales as the fierce, if sometimes puzzled, mother of winsome Jack (Cole Thompson); and Gavin Creel as a smug Cinderella's Prince whose greatest love is himself.

Stephanie J. Block demonstrates her range as the Baker's Wife, an ordinary woman who learns from her experiences and provides the emotional heart of the production–in a very different way from her histrionic Norma Desmond in the recent Kennedy Center Broadway Center Stage production of Sunset Boulevard. Montego Glover gives a majestic performance as the aggrieved Witch, but puppeteer Kennedy Kanagawa wins the audience's affection as he creates the character of Jack's beloved cow Milky White (the head has large, sad eyes; the body is constructed to collapse as needed).

Into the Woods runs through March 19, 2023, at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Opera House, 2700 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202- 467-4600 or visit For more information on the tour, visit

The New York City Center Encores! Production
Directed by Lear deBessonet
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Choreographed by Lorin Latarro
Music director: John Bell

Witch: Montego Glover
Baker's Wife: Stephanie J. Block
Baker: Sebastian Arcelus
Cinderella's Prince/Wolf: Gavin Creel
Jack: Cole Thompson
Little Red Ridinghood: Katy Geraghty
Cinderella: Diane Phelan
Cinderella's Stepmother: Nancy Opel
Rapunzel's Prince: Jason Forbach
Jack's Mother: Rayanne Gonzales
Narrator/Mysterious Man: David Patrick Kelly
Cinderella's Father/Puppeteer: Josh Breckenridge
Cinderella's Mother/Granny/Giant: Felicia Curry
Lucinda: Ta'Nika Gibson
Florinda: Brooke Ishibashi
Milky White/Puppeteer: Kennedy Kanagawa
Steward: Jim Stanek
Rapunzel: Alysia Velez