In Strange Woods: The musical true crime fiction podcast--which delivers on "strange"
Welcome to Series Sunday! I love bingeing a whole series on Sundays. Officially, I’m still just publishing one new podcast review each week (on Fridays), but occasionally, I’ll publish an extra serial podcast--often, but not always, true crime--review on Sundays.
The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):
A new podcast musical from the producer of The Bright Sessions and creators Jeff Luppino-Esposito, Brett Ryback, and Matt Sav. After a tragedy in the Whitetail National Forest, 18-year-old Peregrine Wells seeks out survivalist skills from an enigmatic old recluse. In this fictional documentary musical with an original folk-pop score, listeners will follow producer Brett Ryback as he explores themes of grief, adolescence, and our precarious relationship to the wilderness - all set against a sleepy northern Minnesota town reeling from a loss of innocence it will never get back. In Strange Woods is a production of Atypical Artists. It is created and executive produced by Jeff Luppino-Esposito, Brett Ryback, and Matt Sav.
Series or standalone:
Begin listening to:
Chapter 1 - A Man Who Cannot Be Saved
“Fictional documentary musical”
Teen/adult. I don’t think there was any language or anything too inappropriate, but with it starting with the death/(murder?) of a teen character, it may be a bit too dark for younger kids.
Approximate length of episodes:
Similar recommended pods:
There’s really nothing like this, but it’s the same producer as The Bright Sessions. Another musical fiction podcast is Childish: The Podcast Musical, which only had 4 episodes. I’m not sure if it will be back.
Podcast Librarian’s Review:
Ever listen to a true crime musical before? Yeah, me neither. This was probably the strangest (ha!) podcast I’ve listened to in a while. In Strange Woods is a fiction podcast which is, admittedly, not my usual type of pick. I believe I heard about it in one of the many podcast newsletters that land in my inbox each week, and the musical aspect of it must have convinced me to download. That said, I totally forgot what it was about when I started listening, so when I started getting into the first episode (which sounds almost verbatim like an episode of Serial - Season 1) and heard the first musical number, I was confused but intrigued. That’s pretty much how I felt listening to all 5 episodes (“Chapters”) of this podcast. I often forgot it was a musical until the music started because it mostly sounds like a true crime podcast, complete with interviews with locals. That said, the music was quite good, and the singers are undeniably talented. It reminds me of the newer style of folk-pop musical scoring, similar to Dear Evan Hansen, and I was belting the ballad “Come and Find Me” in my car for a week. I also loved the Greek chorus-esque “But what they didn’t know was…” refrain.
However, I felt the plot was weak, growing increasingly unbelievable as the story went on and definitely not what I was expecting. I thought from the first episode that the story would focus on Jacob’s disappearance, but it took a strange kind of Hunger Games/survivalist turn instead that just didn’t work for me. To be honest, I likely would have stopped listening after the first episode if this were just a regular fiction podcast with no musical numbers; I kept listening because a) the songs are really enjoyable and b) I was dying to know how they would keep up the musical motif. I would definitely listen if there's a season 2 (this plot wrapped up, so I don't know if there will be) when they've had a chance to redefine the concept and iron out the kinks. Overall, this is worth a listen because it’s so different from other podcasts, but know that if you listen, you should expect it to be like most musicals--excellent music and good acting, but light on plot and heavily reliant on the suspension of disbelief.