It’s not like I’m on a fairy tale kick really, but…
Into the Woods is one of my top ten all-time favorite musicals.
This Broadway musical first premiered on November 5, 1987. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, Into the Woods takes the tales of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Ridinghood, and Rapunzel and meshes them together into something more. Here, “Once Upon a Time…” begins with a wish. Several in fact. Cinderella wishes to go to the King’s Festival. Jack wishes to keep his cow; his mother wants to sell it. The Baker and his wife long for a child. Oh, who are they?
The Baker and his wife are intimately tied to Rapunzel’s story. The witch has cursed the baker’s family with infertility, but she offers to reverse the spell in exchange for: “the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold.” You see where this is going right?
Act One unfolds the story of the Baker and his wife—as they retrieve the precious objects needed to reverse the curse—alongside and interwoven with the traditional tales. Though Act Two begins with everyone happy, the story turns tragic and proves that happily ever after isn’t always the case.
Unlike some musicals, the songs here are integral to the characters and their stories. Some are humorous, such as Hello, Little Girl and the two versions of Agony. Others are insightful like On the Steps of the Palace, Moments in the Woods, and Children Will Listen. However, the witch, originally portrayed by Bernadette Peters—awesome—has some of the best soul-stirring songs with Stay with Me, Lament, and Last Midnight.
I never got to see this musical on Broadway, but, in 1991, PBS televised it with the original cast. A production I was later able to purchase on DVD. (See photo at right.) I subsequently saw an excellent rendition performed by Syracuse University drama students at Syracuse Stage, which included a few new songs from the 2002 Broadway revival.
I often listen to music when writing—to spur creativity or reflect a mood I wish to capture. The original Broadway cast album of Into the Woods is most certainly on that play list. In fact, I’ve used Into the Woods as the title for a collection of stories set circa Autumn 1987. These stories, which include gothic or supernatural elements, are meant to be my characters’ first foray into the paranormal genre. At least in my planned chronology.
Stay tuned for more about these and other stories. In the meantime, give a listen to or watch Into the Woods.