I stand before a sprawling 1918 mansion. A cement path is illuminated by tall candles, lighting the way to the front door. I walk towards it cautiously, and find more candles on the porch. But before I can further examine my surroundings, the door creaks open—revealing a tall man with wispy white hair. “I am Lindsay, butler to the Willows Family. Please come in.” I enter, curious as to why I was invited here tonight and who this mysterious family is.
The Willows is a year-round immersive experience by the minds that brought you the successful CreepLA. Yet, The Willows expands on CreepLA in scope, narrative, acting, and atmosphere/setting. That’s not to say CreepLA wasn’t fantastic (it’s one of our favorites), it’s just that The Willows is absolutely phenomenal.
The Willows is a mysterious celebration with a family that can be best described as distant relatives of the Addams Family. They have invited you to join the party—but it’s up to you to determine the circumstances of the celebration. Taking cues from murder mystery evenings and intimate immersive experiences, The Willows provides guests with both group entertainment and personalized interactions. With almost one actor for every two participants, there’s plenty of opportunity for guests to be pulled into private rooms to enjoy some time with a member of the family.
Your interactions with the family are the heart of the experience. Each member has a distinct role within the dynamics of the Willows family, but to go into detail on this or their personalities would be a disservice to your evening. Instead, just trust in our sweeping generalities. The family felt iconic, familiar, and incredibly memorable. They also create a sense of unease in patrons. While this experience is not horror in any regard, there are unnerving, bizarre, and creepy moments. But there are also moments of hilarity, of mystery, and of warmth. They are able to elicit multiple different emotions through the incredible writing and direction of this performance.
The show centers around themes of trust and the secrets that we keep. Thus, some of the Willows family members may try to manipulate you with their words or questions—so choose yours carefully. Others will hide their emotions behind walls or masks, and it will take more time to gain their trust. But despite the varied personalities of the family members, they all felt real. Not a single character felt over-the-top or unrealistic. Thanks to an amazing cast of top-notch performers, the immersion is never broken.
The final character that has not been mentioned is the residence itself. The mansion that the Willows Family inhabit is beyond gorgeous. The furnishings in the house feel lived-in and cohesive because real people still live in the house. But the creators of this experience have added small touches that truly make this experience shine. They utilize every area of this space, from the many bedrooms upstairs to the basement to the backyard. A large dining room table, with room for over 25 guests, has been added to accommodate all members of the family and participants. In my first time through, I saw only half of the rooms—and am excited to go back and explore further.
The Willows is an ambitious endeavor that offers something unique to the Los Angeles immersive scene. It succeeds by introducing you to a family that, despite their odd behaviors, you truly enjoy spending time with. With a mansion that creates the perfect backdrop, the actors shine in their roles, making you both care and fear them. I urge you to see this show—for fans of CreepLA and for those who don’t like being scared. The Willows is exactly what the LA immersive scene has needed, and will help it expand to a new audience. This is something special, and I can’t wait to return. I am already planning to have my birthday party with the Willows Family. You are invited to celebrate; won’t you take a seat at their table?
For more information, see The Willows. Also read our interview with the creative team behind The Willows for more information.