Muhlenberg alum Kennedy Kanagawa ‘08 moo-ved Broadway with “Into the Woods” debut

The cow as white as milk has become the role of a lifetime

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Kennedy Kanagawa ‘08 (left) and Johnny Veglia '24 (right) // Photo courtesy of Johnny Veglia '24

“Into the Woods” is an iconic musical and a powerful story for children of all ages, with an impressive revival currently on Broadway with new cast members, such as Stephanie J. Block as The Baker’s Wife and Krysta Rodriguez as Cinderella. The highly acclaimed revival dedicated to Stephen Sondheim has been delighting audiences over the course of its production at the St. James Theatre and its former run at New York City Center with Encores! The piece has had multiple extensions, with the run now ending Jan. 8, 2023 with the incredibly talented cast and crew, among which is Muhlenberg’s very own Kennedy Kanagawa ‘08. 

“It’s so crazy and weird and bizarre and exciting. I don’t think that my body is fully capable of processing all the emotions. They’re very much bottlenecking because this was so fast,” stated Kanagawa on his Broadway debut.

The production first started off as a two week run with Encores! at New York City Center from May 4 through May 15. It was a very fast process for Kanagawa and the rest of the ensemble.

“My agent got the offer at the end of March, and then we started rehearsals a month later for 10 days.”

– Kennedy Kanagawa ‘08

Kanagawa stated, “My agent got the offer at the end of March, and then we started rehearsals a month later for 10 days. We had 10 days to mount the show for a two week run and then, at the end of the first week, found out that we were transferring to Broadway. And then a month after that, we were on Broadway. The people in the show are so phenomenal and it’s literally just like watching a masterclass every day with my literal idols.” 

On Sept. 4, Brian d’Arcy James, Philipa Soo, Julia Lester, Sara Bareilles and other talented cast members left the cast and were replaced by new cast members. Kanagawa shared his excitement for working with the new cast, “I mean, I’m excited to work with all of them, but Stephanie J. Block is a literal goddess.”

During the initial run at New York City Center, the cast would talk about the likelihood of transferring to Broadway. The wish came true on the actor’s day off. When Kanagawa found out it was going to be mounted at the St. James Theatre, he told his partner, “‘I think I’m gonna be on Broadway.’ Then he was like, ‘What?’ and so he hugs me and we both started screaming and we’re jumping up and down,” says Kanagawa.

Transitioning to Broadway allowed for new audience members to be introduced to Kanagawa’s loveable portrayal of Milky White, the cow, the companion of Jack from the fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The cow is portrayed through a puppet designed by James Ortiz. Kanagawa worked closely with Ortiz to bring Milky White to life.

“When they were looking for an actor for this track, Lear deBessonet, our director, was kind of looking to James to recommend someone who would be able to puppeteer. But they wanted it to be someone who was also able to sing and so James recommended me,” stated Kanagawa.

The rehearsal process allowed for Ortiz and Kanagawa to play with the puppet and discover Milky White as a character. Due to the short time frame, the main focus was putting the show together. Kanagawa shared, “James and I would love to go off into the corner, and be like… ‘How does it work?’”

“It’s not puppeteering, but it’s kind of like you’re using your body almost as its own puppet.”

– Kennedy Kanagawa ‘08

“At Muhlenberg you have all these different disciplines [that] are kind of layered on top of each other, and it’s really encouraged… to do everything… I had never done puppetry before, but what I had done was a lot of physical theater like… sack [day]… It’s not puppeteering, but it’s kind of like you’re using your body almost as its own puppet.”

“I’m having the time of my life. I think the reception that Milky White is getting is so fun. People are sending me fan art. And you know, there was of course the tattoo.” One devoted fan got a tattoo of the puppet to showcase their passion for the character and for the show.

“Into the Woods” on Broadway extended its run for the last time until Jan. 8, 2023, and a cast album will be released soon, sometime this month. 

Kanagawa concluded, “We’re just goofing around, having so much fun—and the audience! It’s been really wonderful hearing their support, and it feels very validating that the audience has gone along with us on this journey with the cow. We have a lot of fun.”

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