NEW YORK — When Sara Bareilles signed on for a two-week, stripped down production of “Into the Woods” off-Broadway, she had no idea the adventure would lead to Broadway and a Tony Award nomination. She also had no idea it would become a moving tribute to composer Stephen Sondheim.
“It’s the first show that got mounted after Steve passed. And so, to be singing a Stephen Sondheim score — I think there was a lot. We were in church every night,” Bareilles told The Associated Press of her turn as Baker’s wife in the fractured fairy tale musical.
The nod was the third for Bareilles. She was previously nominated for best original score in 2016 for “Waitress” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” in 2018. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter even took a turn as Jenna, the protagonist in “Waitress,” but this is her first Tony nomination for performing.
“I’m shocked and I’m so grateful and I feel so lucky. I loved every minute of it. It was amazing,” Bareilles said.
Bareilles found success after college, and racked up a string of hit albums, including “Little Voice,” “Kaleidoscope Heart” and “The Blessed Unrest.” Her hits include “Love Song” and “Brave.” She already has earned a Grammy for her role in the “Into the Woods” cast album.
“Into the Woods,” with songs by Sondheim, who died in late 2021, takes fables like Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella and explores their unhappy consequences. The revival had an all-star roster of talent that also included Patina Miller, Montego Glover, Stephanie J. Block, Brian d’Arcy James and Joshua Henry.
Bareilles identifies as a theater kid, so the nomination for a musical theater performance means a lot to her.
“I cherish the theater community so much and I have so much respect for the actors. It felt like I got to be seen as one of them and it just means so much to me. I’m a theater kid. You know, this is the pinnacle. This is what you aim for your whole life.”
While her trajectory suggests a future on the stage, Bareilles says that won’t mean giving up on her regular musical career.
“I’d love to believe it doesn’t have to be an either/or,” she said. “I think the paradigm is shifting for artists in general. It’s OK to be a polymath. We can write books and you can act, and you can go towards your passion.”
And that includes television, with a starring role in the Peacock musical comedy series, “Girls5eva,” with Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Renée Elise Goldsberry.
On June 11, Bareilles will find out if she’ll become a Tony winner when the Tony Awards air live from New York City. She faces-off against Annaleigh Ashford from “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Victoria Clark in “Kimberly Akimbo,” Lorna Courtney from “& Juliet” and Micaela Diamond in “Parade.”