Into the Woods Cast & Crew Spotlight: Laura Jackson and Michael Presley Bobbitt

By: Emma Grimm

Laura Jackson
By Michael Presley Bobbitt

Name: Laura Jackson
I play:  The Baker’s Wife
My favorite show is: I don’t have a favorite show, but I recently saw My Fair Lady on Broadway and loved everything about it.
My favorite food is: Tamales
Something weird about me: I’m married to the Baker in real life, and we live on a mini-farm with donkeys and goats!

You were seen last year as Janet in Rocky Horror, and here you are again as leading lady in a musical! Your performance as the Baker’s Wife has already captivated so many audience members. You may not know this, but your solo, Moments in the Woods, is one of the few times backstage that every single cast member is silent and piling up by the entrances to watch you perform. It’s clear that you’ve done the work to prepare for this role, and your vocals have grown significantly since Rocky.

What preparation have you done? Are there experiences in your personal life that have inadvertently helped you play the Baker’s Wife with such poise and authenticity?

First of all, thanks! That means a lot to me. I’ve always loved to sing, but there was a long period in my life when I was too shy or nervous to sing by myself in front of other people. I started taking private voice lessons last summer, and they have helped me tremendously. I learned that singing is a skill you can develop just like any other (practice, practice, practice). And now it’s so fun and cathartic to let it all out on stage in a song…what a high! Like the Baker’s wife, I am also married with no biological children, so I can definitely relate to her wish to start a family. Her desire for a child drives most of her actions in the first half of the play, so I already have the answer to that classic actor question, “What’s my motivation?”

What is your favorite part of the show?

There are so many! One of my favorite parts is “Cinderella at the Grave”, when Cinderella’s mother sings “Are you certain what you wish is what you want?” It’s so easy to wish for something without thinking it through, and then when you get it, it doesn’t bring you the happiness you expected. It’s good advice, even if Cinderella doesn’t follow it. And I love listening to Jackie and Mandy sing.

Besides yourself, who is your favorite character?

My favorite character is the Witch because, unlike most of the other characters, she is honest about who she is, what she wants, and what she is willing to do to get it. Like her or not, you always know where you stand with the Witch. And her songs are hauntingly beautiful and sung to perfection by Lola.

What do you love about playing your character?

The Baker’s Wife is a wonderful character to play. I am pretty indecisive (like Cinderella), so it’s liberating to play someone so tenacious and determined. And just when I think I’ve got her figured out, she does something totally out of character. I enjoyed the challenge of understanding her motivations there, and how it fits in with her character arc. And of course, I love the songs I get to sing!

What do you think makes this production different and special?

The outstanding cast is what makes this production so special. Everyone is so great in their individual parts, but we’ve struck theatre gold by achieving perfect harmony as an ensemble, and created a whole that is better than the sum of its parts. It’s an honor and a thrill to be a part of it.

Michael Presley Bobbitt
By Ian Hales

Name: Michael Presley Bobbitt
I play: The Baker
My favorite show is: Cedar Key by Michael Presley Bobbitt
My favorite food is: Rare ribeye steak
Something weird about me: I was taught my ABCs backwards as a very young child by a weirdo uncle. I can still say them backwards much better than I can forward.

Over the course of the past few months, many of the cast and crew members have come to understand that this show holds a lot of sentimental value for you. Would you mind sharing the specifics as to why you relate to the trials and tribulations experienced by your character, The Baker? And how has embodying this role helped you better understand the lessons that come with?

I am the father of a 17 year old son who is beginning to reach out into the world and chart the direction of his life. There are so many lessons I want him to learn in a less difficult way than I did. I didn’t have the benefit of daily interactions with my father until I was older, and the sense of unsteadiness that brought to my life is one I’ve fought hard to make sure my son never experiences. Still, it’s part of being a parent to worry about our children’s well-being, their self-image, and in my case specifically about how my influence affects him. This role deals with the issue of an absentee father, and a new father with the same worries for his son that I have for mine. The play tells us that, “Children may not obey, but children will listen.” Playing this part has made me mindful that my words and actions are important to my son, even when it seems like his attention is focused elsewhere. It affirms that I am not alone in the pervasive second-guessing of my parenting skills, and that in the end being available and present and giving a damn is the lion’s share of being a good father.

What is your favorite part of the show?

I love the duet “No More” between the Baker and the Mysterious man (his own absentee father’s ghost).

Besides yourself, who is your favorite character?

The Baker’s Wife, hand’s down… and not just because Laura Beth Jackson’s portrayal of her is so nuanced and compelling. I love that character because she represents the ambition and gray area of all of our moralities when in pursuit of something we hold dear. In a play full of complex characters, the Baker’s Wife is the most layered in my view. She is loving, funny, nagging, dishonest and honorable all rolled into one. She is a deeply human, flawed, and beautiful character, with depth seldom realized in musical theater.

What do you love about playing your character?

The Baker is often cast as a whimpering, anxiety-filled, smallish man. I appreciate the opportunity to bring a kind of traditional masculine brawniness to the role, to show that emotional turmoil and uncertainty are issues affecting even those men we more often associate with stereotypical ‘manliness’ for lack of a better term. I have seen a great number of productions of Into the Woods, never with a Baker that looks like a big dumb redneck like me. I love that the Baker is generally deferential to his wife– even when he attempts to try to tell her what to do– reinforcing my belief that it is a modern trap to believe submission is the same thing as weakness. We are most powerful when we are in service to those we love and respect.