By Lacey Vorrasi-Banis
July 29, 2019 at 03:11 PM EDT
Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Magic was cast over the weekend in Los Angeles when the Hollywood Bowl went Into the Woods with Sutton Foster, Patina Miller, Skylar Astin, Gaten Matarazzo, Chris Carmack, Cheyenne Jackson, Sierra Boggess, and more bringing their star power to Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s fairy tale fable.

The beloved Broadway musical intertwining various tales as old as time is certainly no stranger to revivals and reimaginings, so the all-star ensemble faced a familiarly daunting task: Make it different but the same, don’t Rob Marshall it, and give die-hards something to hang their red capes and gold slippers on.

Luckily, for those fortunate enough to pack the famed outdoor amphitheater during the musical’s limited three-night run, the Robert Longbottom-directed production used a veteran stage cast to do what all great fairytales (especially Into the Woods) do: Remind us of our roots while sowing seeds for generations to come. Here were EW’s six best moments in the woods:

Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Every second of Sutton Foster
Since Joanna Gleason originated the role of the Baker’s Wife on Broadway in 1987—and won a Tony for it—Foster had a map (and an homage costume) to guide her in taking on the iconic role. As a two-time Tony winner herself, Foster is undoubted in her ability to tackle breezy songs like “It Takes Two” and “Moments in the Woods”—but would she play the part with the earnestness of a woman desperate to have a child, or would she lean into the fairy tale innocence and invoke that wide-eyed ingenue expression that makes her perfect as Liza on TV Land’s Younger? Foster went with a levity that reminded us why, in addition to being Broadway royalty, she’s one of our strongest comedic actresses. Her “Any Moment” with Jackson only reinforced that—surprisingly, her singing only marked the second-best thing about her pitch-perfect performance.

Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Chris Carmack charming his way through his first stage musical
While the entire ensemble seemed to have fun in the woods, no actor appeared to have a better time on stage than Carmack, playing Rapunzel’s scene-stealing Prince. From his jaunty entrances to his slow smile effortlessly selling his agony-fueled sex appeal, Carmack made the most of his every glorious saunter on stage.

Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Sierra Boggess gives a much-needed new shine to gold slippers
While some attendees may have come for Foster, they may have left thinking of Boggess, who made the role of Cinderella her own. No stranger to playing princesses (she made her Broadway debut as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid), Boggess brought a welcome level of humanity to a cookie-cutter character, tapping into a Cinderella that didn’t just want the nicer things in life but longed to surround herself with goodness, making her version of “No One Is Alone” especially poignant.

After “Ever After”
As Saturday’s audience took their seats, the Hollywood Bowl staff kept reminding the crowd that there was, in fact, a second act to the show, as apparently on opening night a lot of what I can only assume were heterosexuals got up and left after act one, sadly missing a cast that took the darker, heavier material of the second act and ran away with it. Sondheim and Lapine built all of the soaring bravado and Kleenex moments into the show’s latter half, separating the grim from the fairy tale, and this cast knew just how to spin lines and lessons into gold.

Patina Miller pulling the strings in “Your Fault/Last Midnight”
The production gratefully minimized its departures from the Broadway original, but one brilliant standout difference was during “Last Midnight” when the Witch vocally razes the quartet of survivors on their day of reckoning: Rather than choosing to use the number as a showcase for Miller’s powerhouse vocals, Longbottom and Miller instead framed the Witch as something of a puppet master, moving the Baker, Jack, Red Riding Hood and Cinderella simultaneously in herky-jerky staccato, resulting in a visually arresting little bit of choreography that perfectly matched Miller’s forceful commands.

Whoopi Goldberg’s Mother—
The moment Goldberg’s dread-ed shadow appeared as the Giant in the towering arches of the Bowl, the actress garnered more cheers and applause than the last time I saw another celebrity take the cameo—in Central Park in 2012, with Glenn Close as the female behemoth. But it was Goldberg’s improvised “Mother—!” just before being slayed that laid waste to the audience below, making Goldberg the greatest motherf—ing Giant that I’ve seen fall.

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