Interview: Krysta Rodriguez Picks Up the Slipper as Pure as Gold in Into the Woods
Rodriguez takes on the role of Cinderella in the acclaimed revival at the St. James Theatre.
It's hard to step into a show that's already running, and even harder when it's as acclaimed as Lear deBessonet's Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into The Woods. But Krysta Rodriguez has done that with aplomb, picking up Cinderella's slipper as pure as gold from Phillipa Soo and bringing a new spin to the iconic princess. Here, Rodriguez tells us about her journey.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How did you come to join the Into the Woods cast?
They came to my reps and basically asked if I would be interested. But since this is not the normal thing I'm known for, they asked if I would be willing to show them I could do it, so I quickly learned "Steps of the Palace" in a day and sang it for Rob Berman, and they liked it.
Which is a miracle on its own.
Yeah, exactly. So I just kind of had to show them this was in my wheelhouse. The show was very hard to learn. It was very fast. We did it in nine-ish days, and it's not like you have nine days of rehearsal and then a preview period. Your first show is just there. On two-show days, we're in the building for 12 hours, and I remember when we first started, just being like "We're only at intermission? I can't fathom that there's more!" But when I'm at the very end, right before "Children Will Listen," when I'm standing in the corner with Little Red and Jack, I reflect every night on where I was when we started. Even that evening. Where we began this evening and where we are now, and somehow, we made it.
What is it like for you as a cast member to come into this production knowing that the audience goes nuts for it and the reviews were rapturous, and that the whole thing feels like a rock concert?
It's incredible, and it also gives you a jolt of responsibility, to lead this group of people through many things. They will laugh, they will cry, they will think, they will learn. Teach, join, go to the festival, you know? Sometimes the crowds are wild, they're clappy, clappy, clappy, but sometimes, they're not a laughing crowd. There are people who are just excited to be in the building and sit with Sondheim for three hours, and there are people who we have to take on a journey.
Does it feel like a pressure knowing it's one of the first Sondheim productions since he died?
No…It was more sad that there wasn't more. But he built a way to grieve him in his shows. You know, sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood. That's what happened with us. He was around for the conception of this and spoke to the team and knew it was happening. It feels a little bit like it straddles both worlds, the world where he was here, and the world where he's not.
How does the fast process impact your job at character building?
I think that it was actually a blessing for me, in particular because I didn't know the show. I got to develop the character from the text. I didn't have a preconceived notion of who she was supposed to be. Going straight to the source is what I've really enjoyed, and that's what makes this version of the show so joyful. It's just relying on the words.
I could talk for hours about my take on Cinderella. She is the arc of the show. She's the first to speak and last to speak. She's the one who changes the most. She goes from wanting a ball and a prince to raising a child that's not hers, with a chosen family, and starting over. She's a woman of the earth and always was because that's where she started. And that's really cool.
There are some shows that are better equipped to handle the digging than others, and this one is veery well equipped to handle the digging. It's like Shakespeare. When you have a solid foundation that you can keep returning to, you're never going to run out of inspiration and things to focus on.
I will admit, I'm someone who has found it sometimes hard to find a way into Sondheim's work, because it is so fast and cerebral, and sometimes disjoined and difficult, but I have found that I think I enjoy performing Sondheim. It's more fun to perform Sondheim than to see it sometimes. You're so supported.
And right after this, you're going into The Collaboration for Manhattan Theatre Club, which is coming in from the Young Vic in London. What can you tell me about it?
I really have no idea! I didn't see it at the Young Vic, but they have this incredible world that they've built that I'm just excited to join. I I wanted to do The Collaboration because it will be my first Broadway play. I've been very lucky to be able to do a lot of crossover between theater and television, but it's a huge milestone for me to do a play on Broadway. It's a small, impactful little role that I'm excited to explore.