SALT LAKE CITY — On Saturday, February 24th 2024, I saw Into The Woods (music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim with book by James Lapine) at the Babcock theatre at the University of Utah. Into the Woods follows a Baker (played by James Wong) and his wife (played by Lila Prince) who want to have a child, but their family has been cursed by the witch (played by Helena Goei) and to undo the curse, the Baker and his wife have to collect four separate objects untouched by the witch. As the story progresses, a narrator (played by Natalie Ruthven), interacts with the story and its characters as she describes the various events throughout the play.

There are a few things that really stood out in this performance: the full orchestra (conducted by Alex Marshall) situated throughout the front, center and back of the stage (where the percussion sat). It reminded me of the opera, which always has a live orchestra, and it was easy to forget that they were there even though the actors had to maneuver around the musicians. But this was such a pleasant surprise, it would be lovely to see more musicals with live accompaniment.

Into the Woods plays at the University of Utah’s Babcock Theatre through February 25, 2024.

The musical numbers shown in this production.  Immediately, I was taken aback by Tate Foshay’s rendition of “Hello, Little Girl” as the Wolf, making him instantly my favorite musical performer in the whole show. Although much of the actual singing in the show was perfectly adequate, Foshay continued to delight when he became Cinderella’s Prince in his duet “Agony” with Ian Andersen (as Rapunzel’s Prince). It is in these numbers where director David Eggers’ direction seems to shine the brightest; such as Goei’s rendition of “Last Midnight” where I was half-expecting a Meryl Streep inspired performance, but Goei’s was unique in its own way. Instead of trying to hit those high notes, she stayed in her range and acted as she sang. The music felt incorporated into the characters instead of becoming a platform to highlight how well people could sing. This was also shown in Little Red’s solo where Paris Howard feels very believable as a child who has been rescued from the belly of the wolf by the Baker. Simply, the songs felt like things people in their situation would sing, if bursting into song were customary.

The lighting, designed by Michael J. Horejsi seemed both sporadic and sudden. It was difficult to notice changes in lighting before the scene would change, and most of it the time it wasn’t clear what the relevance was. The only moments in the performance where the lighting highlighted the events were when the Wolf eats Little Red (the lights turned red) and when the Baker kills the Wolf (red again). Later on, when Cinderella is singing to Little Red (“No One Is Alone”), there is a spotlight on the two of them, and also on the Baker and Jack, who eventually begin to sing along with the others. Additionally, the giant’s wife is characterized with wavering lights (as if one were looking at water through a glass) appear on the walls.

The main quibble with an otherwise wonderful performance is the costuming designed by both Emma Ashton and Elizabeth Kennington. Having recently reviewed The Tempest at the U, I know for a fact that the university has beautiful period clothing… and yet the costuming went a different direction for this production. The narrator, introduced by a voice over of two parents arguing with their child, looks like she is living through the zombie apocalypse in a gray hoodie, a hat that looks handmade and a large gray backpack.

At first, it looks like it’ll just be a modern retelling of Into The Woods, but the costuming can’t pick if it’s a period piece or a modern one. The Baker is dressed like an accountant, wearing various shades of brown, while Jack (played by Nate Ginsberg) is wearing converse sneakers. The Wolf is introduced wearing a black leather jacket with white spikes and black leather pants. Cinderella’s Prince looks like a brightly colored businessman while his Steward (played by Jake Englestad) wears leather pants and it’s not clear what the Witch or the Baker’s wife is wearing (since their outfits are a hodgepodge of clothing that belongs to neither time nor place). Throughout the musical, the costuming proved to be obstacle I couldn’t overcome; why was Cinderella’s dad (played by Guy Yarkoni) dressed as a Frenchman and why is Little Red wearing red fishnet stockings!?

Into The Woods is a timeless Sondheim classic; the dialogue, themes and music seem to translate well to today, not really ageing. Honestly, Into The Woods is a hard musical to do poorly; it’s so strong in a lot of ways on its own and with the live orchestra, synchronized ensemble dance numbers, randomly hilarious characters (ie Mysterious Man played by Bryce Romleski), this rendition of Into The Woods would’ve been perfect if only the costuming had been cohesive.

Into The Woods plays Fridays through Sundays at the Babcock Theater (300 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City) on the campus of the University of Utah from February 16-25th. Tickets are $7.50-17.50. For more information, visit

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.