What do a cow, a cape, hair and a slipper have in common? A Stephen Sondheim fairy-tale musical, of course! Now put together the familiar stories of “Cinderella”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Rapunzel” and “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Now what? You got it! We have one whimsically clever, yet sophisticated, story wherein all these characters, plus a few more, interact with each other to weave a tale of fiction sprinkled with shavings of reality and lots of comedy dust. There’s enough of the latter to keep everyone laughing. So mom, dad, whoever’s in charge, if your kid can sit through the duration of a Broadway musical, this one’s for you … with or without a child. (I’ll mention one caveat later.)
INTO THE WOODS had a two-year run (’87-’89) on Broadway and won three Tony Awards in ’88 (nope, not Best Musical). My Tony Award goes to Chris Turner for doing an incredible job as Director of the WDL’s version. And his cast, on the whole, was simply awesome!
You might not be so familiar with this musical. Perhaps you’ve heard these touching songs before – “Children Will Listen” and “No One Is Alone” – but weren’t aware they were from this delightful, yet dark, production. However, fairy-tales tend to be scary and gloomy. Usually they go from “Once upon a time …” to “… and everyone lived happily ever after.” This one is no different, however, just to give you a heads up, there are a few bodies missing in the end.
In Act I, we find the Baker and his Wife wishing for a child, but neighbor Witch has planted a curse on them. (She has her reasons.) To remove this curse, they need to find a cow that’s milky-white, a cape as red as blood (wonderful), hair the color of yellow corn and a golden slipper. (That Witch wouldn’t like me one bit.) Meanwhile, Cinderella wants to go to the Festival up the road. (She’s the one with the two sisty uglers, remember?) Little Red, the wise gal version of “guy”, is trying to get to Granny’s place, but that naughty Wolf is her nemesis. (Didn’t the Three Little Pigs do him in?) Rapunzel is imprisoned up in a tower by her mean Mom. Jack’s mother sends him out to make money. (Care to place a bet on “Milky-White”?) Tying all these characters together are six not-just-ordinary beans. But of course.
What ensues is a comedy of errors … think fairy-tale pinball machine … with everyone bumping along and into each other, and all very well portrayed by this cast of sillies. Suffice to say, they all were the cat’s meow for me. However, I can’t continue without saying that Victoria Healy as the Baker’s Wife can go to Broadway NOW! That stage was hers! Every part of her being was into it! That’s comfort! Most tales have a prince; this one has two. Every time W. Scott Taplin, Cinderella’s Prince, pranced across the stage, the audience howled. That alone is worth the price of admission. I trust you’ll never see that again anywhere.
In Act II all issues get resolved. You know that’s what happens. But I haven’t mentioned yet that INTO THE WOODS is filled with symbolism. All fairy-tales are teachable moments. And since this is a show for all ages, I have to think that Mr. Sondheim was speaking to us all when writing the lyrics to his songs. Some of his messages include, I believe, the importance of working as a team, being responsible and taking responsibility, caring for others, maturing, avoiding greed, having family, being imperfect and being moral. Speaking of the issue of morality, I’d like to point out that there’s a scene where the (married by then) Prince and the Baker’s Wife have an “encounter” in the woods. Perhaps this could be a pre-show discussion with a kid whom you would be bringing to the show.
There is no end to the possibilities for discussions. As a veteran educator, I say this is a perfect show for young people to apply what they know about the fairy-tales they’re familiar with (or should be) and for older adults who can still remember them. (I have to admit, I was confusing Rapunzel with Rumpelstiltskin .)
Be careful what you wish for…
Until the next show…
INTO THE WOODS
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Chris Turner
June 7 – 16, 2013
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE 19802