Montego Glover Enchants as the Witch in Must-See Broadway Revival of “Into The Woods”

In conversation with Broadway’s Montego Glover on final city stop of “Into The Woods” tour

PHOTO: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | The South Pasadenan | Montego Glover in the Broadway production of "Into the Woods" on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
PHOTO: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | The South Pasadenan | Montego Glover in the Broadway production of "Into the Woods" on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

Montego Glover was having a typical Broadway actor’s day – going from appointment to appointment – when her talent representative called her with an offer to join the cast of the Broadway company of “Into The Woods.” Glover said, “that’s wonderful. In the role of?” And he said, “the witch”. Without missing a beat, she replied, “I’ll take it.” Glover laughs at the memory and says she “knew”.

And lucky for us, we here in Los Angeles have the chance to see her play a role she was born to play. It’s a rare opportunity for L.A. audiences to get to see the actual company that was just on Broadway. If you had flown to New York – this is the company, the sets, everything you would have seen. The show began as a concert version for New York City Center’s Encores! last year. The show got such a huge response that it was extended and was eventually re-imagined for a limited Broadway run at the St. James Theatre – which got extended several times and was nominated for multiple Tony Awards.

“By the time we got to the last extension,” Glover explains, “the demand was not slowing down – the love, the joy that was being expressed around this piece was not quieting. So because it is so aligned with how we all feel about the piece, the producers took a leap. They felt that a separate national touring company wasn’t appropriate here. They preferred giving our audiences what we know is the piece as it exists, so they said to us, “what do you think of going on the road?” This is so rare. This is the Broadway company moving across the nation in selected engagements.” Ten cities only and Los Angeles is their final stop, so truly, Angelenos, see this while you can – before it’s gone forever. Glover and the company are clearly excited to be doing this. She went on to tell us that it’s been since the 1930’s that a Broadway company has pulled up stakes and moved its production across the country. “What’s really beautiful is that our audiences are literally seeing the play as it existed in the St. James, except it’s in their town. We are thrilled to be away from home to share this. It is worth it to us to be away from New York for just this time. And we are happy to do it.”

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PHOTO: courtesy of LSG Public Relations | The South Pasadenan | Broadway actress Montego Glover.
PHOTO: courtesy of LSG Public Relations | The South Pasadenan | Broadway actress Montego Glover.

And for Glover, well, the stage has been her home for a very long time. Ever since, at the tender age of 12, she walked the halls of the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences in the first year of its opening as a public magnet school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One day she saw the door to the auditorium slightly ajar and she heard a voice coming from inside – a woman was instructing some students. “She must have felt me standing there because she stopped, turned and saw me. She smiled and said, “come in, come in.” And that was the beginning of my acting training.” Yes, it was the theatre teacher, Stella Duffy, and Glover would go on to study acting, well, from that day forward really. “It made sense. What had always interested me about storytelling, about the idea of it, rested in acting, and that was the beginning of my craft.” Sounds like destiny to me.

The main thrust of the program was the craft of acting so it wasn’t until late in high school when, as Glover explains it, she discovered the artform of musical theatre. “I realized there was an actual art form that allowed a person to act, sing, dance, or do them all separately. It really clicked because it allowed me to do all the things that I really enjoyed, that I’ve felt passionate about, and to be able to combine them or pull them apart at will.”

She furthered her training at Florida State University, and after earning her degree, began working in musical theatre in Okinawa for a year, worked in theatre in Atlanta and eventually landed a new show at Disney in Orlando. She says she learned so much about the business end of being a creative and after three years something told her it was time to move to New York. And she has been working in New York City ever since, receiving a Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award for her role in the musical “Memphis” and portraying Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago cast of “Hamilton”. And now she is wowing audiences across the country as the Witch in the spectacular, Tony nominated revival of “Into The Woods”.

This revival is stripped down and has a full orchestra on stage – the imaginative set design by David Rockwell is delightfully whimsical. Let me say, having seen the original production on Broadway in ’87, this revival succeeds in paying homage while creating something wholly new, unique and simply marvelous. “One of the things I think is absolutely glorious about Lear DeBessonet, our director,” says Glover, “about her vision, is that she’s taken the idea of the heart of what existed in the concert version and applied it directly across all of our medium on the stage. So “Into The Woods”, as it exists in this revival, is not showcasing anything that takes your attention away from the music, the lyrics, and the orchestration, and the writing – which is really the heart of what existed in the concert version. We have practically no set, few props, it’s just our ensemble of actors with our orchestra on stage with us. And that’s the story and it works beautifully – it is extraordinarily elegant storytelling.”

If you don’t know the show, it is one of Sondheim’s most fanciful musicals that reimagines a mash-up of classic fairytales whose stories collide in the woods. Their paths take unexpected twists and turns as they dig deeper into what ‘Happily Ever After’ really means and what actually happens when your dreams come true. It’s a show that has continued to enchant and resonate with audiences through the years. Glover says, “the show tends to meet people exactly where they are.” She recounts meeting people throughout the run of the show who tell her they saw it first when they were young, and then again in their twenties and again in their forties –  “And it’s an entirely different experience. You learn more or hear things in a different way. I think that’s something that is so important about the vitality of “Into The Woods.” And it’s a story about people having a very human experience and it’s incredibly accessible. Everyone can see themselves in some shape or form in one of those characters on the stage – and it feels connected and universal.”

PHOTO: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | The South Pasadenan | The company of the Broadway production of "Into the Woods."
PHOTO: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | The South Pasadenan | The company of the Broadway production of “Into the Woods.”

When asked what, if anything, has surprised her in this whole experience she pauses and finally says, “Everything. Everything has surprised me – in the best way. I’m surprised that a year ago this play was presented in a concert version and here we are a year later with a fully realized Broadway production that existed on Broadway itself and is now literally moving across the country. I’m surprised at how full and resonant this play is for everyone that comes to see it and that it continues to reach people – that to me is terrifically compelling. I’m surprised at how funny and relatable these people are in the play. And I continue to be mesmerized and surprised by the Witch. It hadn’t really occurred to me that I would play her. But when the offer came, I took a pause and thought, this is a good thing. This is something that I should and can try. And I’m continually blown away by how magnificent she is inside the world of this magnificent play.”

The character of the Witch is richly layered and fantastically fun to watch. Glover says that being a woman and a mother are the primal pillars in the life of the Witch. “We meet her in a very specific circumstance – she is a woman who has been cursed. And all the implications of that and what that means to her and the people around her. The journey of the Witch is exciting and profound, like the other characters in the play. There’s an emotional well inside of her that I think is necessary to the life of this being, but also is a very even contributor to the other emotional spaces of the other characters. And she, like all of the other characters in the play, has nuance and layers, and a sense of humor, and a sense of strength and movement – both in intention and through space. It’s one of the things that having very little set allows us to do – actors can really live fully inside
their own bodies.”

And this Witch most definitely commands the stage whenever she’s on it. The physicality Glover brings to the role is exhilarating to watch. “It’s a challenge,” she says, “it’s a bear. I refer to the Witch as a full plate of food. And it’s worth it. It’s an experience – really special – a gift every time. Truly, every performance, a gift. I learn something. I’m learning a million things at the same time constantly.”

It is a transcendent and absolutely indelible performance in the must-see show of the season. Time to go into the woods, dear readers!

“INTO THE WOODS” is now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre through July 30, 2023. The company also stars – direct from Broadway – Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince and The Wolf, Stephanie J. Block as the Baker’s Wife, Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker, Cole Thompson as Jack, Katy Geraghty as Little Red Ridinghood, David Patrick Kelly as The Narrator, Nancy Opel as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Aymee Garcia as Jack’s Mother, Ta’Nika Gibson as Lucinda, Brooke Ishibashi as Florinda, Kennedy Kanagawa as Milky White, Jim Stanek as the Steward, and Alysia Velez as Rapunzel.

PHOTO: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | The South Pasadenan | Kennedy Kanagawa and Cole Thompson in the Broadway production of "Into the Woods."
PHOTO: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | The South Pasadenan | Kennedy Kanagawa and Cole Thompson in the Broadway production of “Into the Woods.”

Tickets available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Offices at the Ahmanson Theatre located at 135 N. Grand Avenue in downtown L.A.