How Krysta Rodriguez Found Her Own Cinderella In Into The Woods

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For Broadway and television star Krysta Rodriguez, joining the cast of the acclaimed Broadway revival of “Into the Woods” has been a dream come true.

Rodriguez joined the show as Cinderella, replacing “Hamilton” star Phillipa Soo, seven years from the day she was last on Broadway. Since 2015, she’s been a part of off-Broadway projects and lit up the silver screen as Liza Minelli in the Netflix series “Halston,” but she said returning to the Great Bright Way has been “a really special experience.”

“I just knew I wanted to be back in the theater world again and among my community after such a crazy time, and I felt really blessed to be able to do that,” said Rodriguez, referencing the coronavirus pandemic, which caused Broadway theaters to close for almost two years.

While “Into the Woods” is one of the more famous works of the late Stephen Sondheim, known for its twist on popular fairy tales like those of Cinderella, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood, Rodriguez said she wasn’t actually familiar with the musical before she joined the cast.

“While I was learning it at a furious pace, I was grateful that I could come to it with fresh eyes,” Rodriguez said. “I really enjoyed unpacking this character and learning who she might just be outside of her iconography … Cinderella herself is a known property with many conceptions, and I was able to separate (my version of) that from what everybody already knows.”

For much of the show’s first act, Rodriguez flits across stage in a resplendent, flame-colored gown that looks majestic while giving her room to manage the character’s physical comedy — including a number of pratfalls. 

“(Former Cinderella actress Philippa Soo) left me some CBD lotion and some arnica to help with my inevitable bruises,” Rodriguez laughed.

Krysta Rodriguez (center) performs on the Plaza with Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block.TODAY

By the second act of the show, the comedy dials down and the fairytale characters find out that happy ever after isn’t as simple as it seems. For Cinderella, that means learning that her Prince (played by Gavin Creel) has a penchant for philandering. She has to decide what that means for their marriage.

“(Creel and I) have enjoyed finding a very natural and grounded version of what it would be like to really confront your fantasy and reality — and which do you choose?” Rodriguez said.

By the final moments of “Into the Woods,” the show’s large cast has been winnowed down to just four characters — Rodriguez, a recently-widowed Baker, and an orphaned Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Little Red Riding Hood. All four are bereft by the losses of the musical’s second act, and grasping for comfort wherever they can find it, leading to two of the show’s more iconic songs: “No One Is Alone” and “Children Will Listen.” 

“Little Red and Jack and Cinderella and the Baker kind of become this chosen family at the end of the show,” Rodriguez said. “I always joke with them … ‘Well, this is end game. The four of us, this is it. It’s just against the world.’ I love creating that bond with them.”

Rodriguez is no stranger to creating lasting connections onstage: In 2007, she was part of the original cast of “Spring Awakening” on Broadway, and returned for a revival of the show in 2015. More recently, she reunited with the original cast, including Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele, in a concert performance and documentary that took viewers inside the premiere of the iconic musical.

“It was wild,” Rodriguez said. “It sort of just started as an idea to do this concert, and then it kind of snowballed into … the documentary and then a premiere and then we performed on the Tonys. It just keeps showing up, because people are so interested in it, and that was really great.”

Beyond the lasting connection Rodriguez has with the casts of “Spring Awakening,” she’s permanently attached to the show: Since she played an unnamed ensemble part in the original production, her name is now listed as that character’s in the scripts and scores.

“Krysta is in the score forever. People are playing ‘Krysta’ in ‘Spring Awakening,’ which is so cool,” Rodriguez said. “I grew up looking at original cast recordings and (scripts) and seeing who was in the original cast, and that’s us. It’s incredible that it’s had this light for so long, and we were just lucky to that that opportunity was given to us to revisit it. … One of the greatest joys of my life is how we have intersected numerous different times.”

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