Review: INTO THE WOODS by Mary Moody Northen Theatre
by Vanessa Hoang Hughes

Elsa Sánchez-Tolentino (photo by April Paine)What goes down when unlikely stories intertwine? Can witches be right, and giants be good? Into the Woods by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim weaves numerous characters from different fairy tales into a single intertwining story. Wish fulfillment unravels in a whirlpool of chaos and confusion. The story depicts life, love, and loss with unlikely scenarios and Sondheim’s enchanting music. Even when dreams come true, not everything is as it seems; even when things go south, you can find the light.


In sixth grade, I played the Narrator in my school’s Into the Woods, Jr. It was one of the most shaping experiences I’ve ever had. From it I learned so much about myself and the way I understand the world. That experience gave me an insider’s perspective when watching this production. Several others in the audience were also alumni of Into the Woods. For us, the Mary Moody Northen theater at St. Edward’s University was filled with nostalgia and a special excitement.



(photo by April Paine)


As soon as I stepped into the arena-style theater, I was thrilled by the detail and creativity of the set Donna Coughlin had so meticulously designed. Creating a story world onstage with the audience watching from all sides can be tricky. Every inch of the space was used. The set filled all four corners of the square playing space. Vines crept up the walls, and locations like Cinderella's house were just a few feet away in an immersive environment that really took you “Into the Woods.” Kathryn Eader’s lighting created a dynamic atmosphere with color and movement. Caroline Reck did the puppetry, in her signature style of using found objects such as the pink rubber glove representing the cow Milky-White’s udders and a saw handle to steer its body. Gabrielle Caumon maneuvered the puppet beautifully.


(photo by April Paine)


Director Jenny Lavery did a spectacular job of bringing the script to life. The intention she put into every choice and movement elevated the characters, reinforced the plot and set the pacing. One of my favorite examples: she had the princes slap the door frame as they exited, something I’ve seen “macho” middle school boys do countless times. Such small, intentional details told us immediately who these characters were. I’ve seen other shows directed by Lavery, including at the Zach Theatre. She never fails to amaze.


Theatre should be fun, and the enthusiasm and charisma of this cast’s performance were delightful. Juan Diego Chaparro as the Baker gave an endearing performance as an awkward yet lovable guy. Lillian Harlow as the Baker’s Wife demonstrated terrific clarity in her voice and choices. Their bickering felt humorous and genuine, not at all forced or awkward, and their chemistry brought a smile to my face.  Guest Equity actor Martin Burke, an Austin favorite, set the tone for the show with bright, energetic narrations. The princes, whom Che Greeno and Conor Tompkins played as goofy dude-bro personas, were hilarious from the moment they entered. Cinderella and Jack, Grace Coldicott and Rafael De La Cruz, sang beautifully and captured their characters’ youth, wonder, and enthusiasm. Elsa Sanchez-Tolentino played a charming, adorable, and sassy Little Red Riding Hood.


Nyla Watson (photo by April Paine)Equity guest artist Nyla Watson blessed us with a stunning portrayal of The Witch. Her haunting yet comic presence demanded our utmost attention. Over the span of the show, she evolved from a frightening presence into a heart-breaking character. She gave the story that extra depth it needed.


Into The Woods directed by Jenny Lavery was a joy to experience. It showcased a great deal of artistic finesse and expertly conveyed the central concept. Bravo to the cast and crew for the obvious effort and many hours they must have spent to put together a fine production of a great piece of art.


Into The Woods
by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Mary Moody Northen Theatre

April 11 - April 21, 2024
Mary Moody Northen Theatre, St. Edward's University
3001 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX, 78704

Adult single tickets are $30, educator/seniors are $24, and student tickets are$15.  Tickets are available by calling the MMNT Box Officeat 512-448-8484 or at

Show Dates and Times

All performances will be held at the Mary Moody Northen Theatre on the St.Edward’s University campus, 3001 S. Congress Ave, Austin, TX. Parking is free.