May 23, 2023 - Things to Do

"Into the Woods" tour comes to Nashville

Kennedy Kanagawa, left, and Cole Thompson in "Into the Woods."

Kennedy Kanagawa and Cole Thompson in "Into the Woods." Photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The musical "Into the Woods," which arrives Tuesday for a limited run at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, is loaded with instantly recognizable characters.

  • Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf all get their turns in the spotlight.

Yes, but: The breakout star of the show might be the sad-eyed cow puppet made of cardboard.

Driving the moos: Milky White, introduced as the cow from "Jack and the Beanstalk," has a basset hound face and long, skeletal legs. Actor and puppeteer Kennedy Kanagawa brings Milky White to life with crackling energy.

  • Kanagawa and Milky White got rave reviews when the Tony-nominated production of "Into the Woods" opened on Broadway last year.
  • He credits puppet designer James Ortiz for constructing a cow with "a truly pitiful face that is impossible to not love." For his performance, he channels the idiosyncrasies of a beloved family dog.

State of play: Now you'll be able to see it for yourself. The first show at TPAC is Tuesday at 7:30pm, with performances running through Sunday.

The intrigue: Kanagawa tells Axios the show is a theater fan's dream, featuring Tony winners and "old pros" who were playing these roles on Broadway just a few months ago. It's rare for big-name Broadway actors to take a show on the road.

  • "It's special because pretty much everybody in the show on Broadway decided to go out together, kind of as a family," he says.
  • "We weren't ready to say goodbye to each other."

What he's saying: Kanagawa says the show, with music and lyrics by the legendary Stephen Sondheim, tackles issues like grief and trauma through the comforting framework of a fairytale, with characters we've known from childhood "telling you that everything is hard, but everything will be OK."

  • He also described the show as an ongoing tribute to Sondheim, who died in 2021.
  • "It's this really beautiful way that we can all celebrate him together."

💭 Adam's thought bubble: "Into the Woods" is a classic for a reason. Sondheim's songs are hilarious and thought-provoking.

  • Having a Broadway-caliber cast bring it all together in our own backyard is better than a fistful of magic beans.

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