When the DC Theater Hall of Fame opens, Felicia Curry and Rayanne Gonzales will be first-ballot inductees, bet the farm. The two have racked up dozens of credits across the DMV—from theater-for-young-audience shows to harder-hitting works, from intimate dramas to soaring musicals—earning nods from critics, awards from judges, esteem from their peers, and adoration from theatergoers the District over.
Today, the two friends and colleagues return to DC in the national tour of Into the Woods, from the acclaimed Broadway production directed by Lear deBossenet. Gonzales, playing Jack’s Mother, is joining the production. Curry has been with this version since it opened at the St. James Theatre in August 2022, her Broadway debut. She plays Cinderella’s Mother, Granny, and the Giant, and understudies The Witch and Jack’s Mother.
Read below they discuss how dreams do come true. Catch them at the Kennedy Center now through March 19.
DCTA: The tour just started with two nights at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo before officially opening in DC. How’s it going?
Felicia Curry: To have the time in Buffalo to put the show up in front of an audience again was great. We continue to call each other “family” in this show and it truly is that. So, to be back together with the Into the Woods family has been great. We’ve also introduced some new faces, which has been wonderful.
Rayanne Gonzales: Buffalo was intense and exciting, cold but not snowy. Tech went fairly smoothly [laughs]. The moment of first preview, though will forever be imprinted on my mind and on my heart. To step into a role in an already established company and to be so thoroughly welcomed and included has made this such a gratifying process. It’s interesting to have observed all the buzz of the original production—I’m as much a fan as everyone else—but it’s another thing to be present on stage with every other person in that cast with the curtain going up on 3,000 people in this beautiful theater screaming their heads off in sustained applause. I became emotional. My lips started to quiver. I had a tear well up in my eye as I was standing there as fully as I could in that moment, receiving this audience’s generosity and love for this show, for this production that I have the privilege to join. I will never forget that moment. It’s unforgettable.
Into the Woods is not new to either of you. Felicia, you understudied several roles in the Broadway production and went on for The Witch and Jack’s Mother. Rayanne, you played Jack’s Mother at Ford’s in 2019. What’s it like to revisit the musical in this evolution?
Felicia: We’ve had people step in and out throughout the entire Broadway run and it’s never lost any of its magic. It’s only been enhanced. That’s a testament to what Lear and Rob [Berman, music supervisor] put together. It’s a story that relies on storytellers, and they’ve been very specific about who they bring in. Watching new storytellers come in with their take on the material has been really exciting.
Rayanne: It’s interesting because I tend to shed roles as I’ve completed them…well, that’s the thing. I at least think I shed roles [laughs]. I’ve realized for myself it’s muscle memory, vocally. There are the building blocks of learning new blocking and getting the words and lyrics back into my head. And then thinking about what choices I made before, but a whole lot of life has happened between. There’s a sense of freedom that I feel, call it being older and wiser as an actor.
Felicia: I’m excited to keep playing one of the few roles in the show that has multiple characters. I get to create three fully formed characters, even in small moments, and bring them to life.
Speaking of the love people have for this show, DC just got a wonderful production of Into the Woods at Signature.
Rayanne: I had the chance to see it. It was an all-star cast!
Felicia: Yes! I saw it between the end of the Broadway run [on January 8] and going back to rehearsal for the tour. I was happy I was able to see it.
What makes this touring version unique?
Felicia: It started as a concert version at City Center, so it’s scaled back. You’re not going to see a huge set. What you are going to see is people telling stories, the orchestra on stage as part of that storytelling, and the genius of the actors and performers bringing it to life.
Including the two of you.
Rayanne: In that spareness of design, there is efficiency. It allows the extraordinary score and lyrics, and the incredible book to take precedence. It forces the audience to hear them anew, to realize their ability to surprise, to have something to discover, to still hit you emotionally in a way that happened before. I can say without reservation I didn’t recognize Into the Woods as the masterpiece it is until this time.
You two have performed together a few times. How’s the reunion?
Rayanne: Felicia is my colleague and also my castmate, but first and foremost she is my friend. We were previously together in Ford’s 2017 production of Ragtime, and prior to that we did OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist by Karen Zacarías and Deborah Wicks La Puma at the Kennedy Center Family Theater. Her essence is a generosity of spirit that one doesn’t encounter often. I have the benefit of herhaving gone on as Jack’s Mother on Broadway. Those moments when I had my doubts, simply because I was trying to retain so much direction and material is such a short span of time, I swear she could feel the energy. She would throw me a look or just gently say something in my ear, or simply affirm something for my if I asked her. It made a world of difference in this literal whirlwind of a rehearsal process. I credit her with being the constancy and the calm that I needed. And Felice Curry in any room, on any stage, under any spotlight, is essential, necessary, and vital, and the whole world should know.
Felicia: I cannot tell you how excited I am and how lucky Into the Woods is to have Rayanne playing Jack’s Mother at the Kennedy Center. She is the heart and soul of DC theater, the epitome of what we all in the community strive to be. She is the kindest, sweetest, most hardworking person I know. She has the voice of an angel. She’s incredibly talented onstage but she’s even more phenomenal offstage. She’s a friend and a confidant. For the two of us to be together in this moment at the Kennedy Center is something I won’t take for granted and will never forget. I just love her.
One more. You have both toured before. How does it feel to open Into the Woods in DC?
Rayanne: This is coming home in the best possible way, home with a capital H. I was born in Fairfax, grew up in Virginia. I went away to Boston University but I made my way back without really a sense of what a professional performing career would look like for me. I had the incredibly good fortune and blessing to meet the people that I met along the way. Arena holds a special place in my heart. I consider it my DC theatrical home. And the opportunity to work at Signature and Shakespeare. I couldn’t imagine the ways each engagement has enriched my life. Working outside the area has always helped me appreciate what is so rich and strong and wonderful and challenging about DC theater. I consider myself pretty darn lucky.
Felicia: I’m at a loss for words because I don’t think I ever thought this moment would happen. It sounds crazy to have just done a Broadway show and then to bring that show home. To be able to bring my Into the Woods family to the Kennedy Center, on the Opera House stage, is already really special. I’m so excited to introduce the DC theater community to them. I would not have been able to have this experience on Broadway without the career I have had in DC. Every opportunity DC has given me has prepared me for this moment. It’s truly a dream come true.
Into the Woods plays through March 19, 2023, in the Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($45–$189) are available at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.
$35 Rush tickets will be available for every performance beginning each performance day at 5:00 pm at the Kennedy Center Box Office, except matinee performances when Rush tickets will go on sale at noon. Tickets are subject to availability and have no guaranteed location. 2 tickets max per person. Void if resold.
A limited number of $35 Mobile Rush tickets will be available for every performance on TodayTix. See TodayTix for details.
The cast and creative credits for Into the Woods on tour are here (scroll down).
COVID Safety: Masks are optional in all Kennedy Center spaces for visitors and staff. If you prefer to wear a mask, you are welcome to do so. Kennedy Center’s COVID Safety Plan is here.
About the Wendi Winters Memorial Series: DC Theater Arts has partnered with the Wendi Winters Memorial Foundation to honor the life and work of Wendi Winters, the DC Theater Arts writer who died in the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2018. To honor Wendi’s legacy, the Wendi Winters Memorial Foundation has funded the Wendi Winters Memorial Series, monthly articles to be produced by DC Theater Arts to bring attention to theater companies and theater practitioners in our region who engage in exemplary work that makes our community a better place.
For more information on DC Theater Arts’ Wendi Winters Memorial Series, check out this article graciously published by our friends at District Fray Magazine.