Book by James Lapine, based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The original Broadway production opened on 5 November 1987 and was directed by James Lapine with musical staging by Lar Lubovitch, running for 764 performances.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
Once upon a time, a far-off kingdom live a fair maiden (Cinderella), a sad young lad (Jack) and a childless baker with his wife. More than anything, Cinderella wishes to go to the King’s Festival, Jack wishes his cow, Milky-White, would give him some milk, the Baker and his Wife wish for a child (PROLOGUE). But, scrubbing in the kitchen, Cinderella and her foolish reveries are mocked by her Stepmother and her Stepsisters; Jack’s Mother wants him to sell Milky-White; and the Baker and his Wife are distracted by the arrival of Little Red Riding Hood, in search of a sticky bun to take to her grandmother in the woods (INTO THE WOODS). The Witch next door offers to end the couple’s barrenness if the Baker can find four crucial ingredients for a magic potion: the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold (THE WITCH’S RAP). Accompanied only by six beans from his father’s jacket, the Baker sets off into the woods; so does Jack, to sell his cow; and Cinderella, to visit her mother’s grave (INTO THE WOODS). At her mother’s grave, Cinderella repeats her wish and, magically, a white and silver gown and gold slippers drop from the hazel tree (CINDERELLA AT THE GRAVE). Elsewhere in the woods, Red Riding Hood is surprised by a slavering Wolf (HELLO, LITTLE GIRL), who persuades her to take a short detour, while Jack sells Milky-White to the Baker for five beans and then tells his cow (I GUESS THIS IS GOODBYE).
The Baker feels badly about taking advantage of a simpleton but his Wife thinks the beans were a fair exchange as their chance of having a child depends on getting the ingredients: the end justifies the beans (MAYBE THEY’RE MAGIC). The Baker is worried about Red Riding Hood – and with good cause. At the cottage, both Grandmother and the young girl have been swallowed by the Wolf. Rescued by the Baker, Red Riding Hood savours her new self-awareness (I KNOW THINGS NOW). Meanwhile, the Witch visits her ward – the Baker’s sister, Rapunzel, a maiden confined to a doorless tower accessible only by climbing her corn-yellow hair (OUR LITTLE WORLD). That night, endeavouring to shake off A VERY NICE PRINCE, Cinderella and the Baker’s wife see, in the distance, a giant beanstalk. As THE FIRST MIDNIGHT approaches, everyone reflects on the day’s adventures. Jack is curious enough to shin up the beanstalk, where he discovers gold and GIANTS IN THE SKY. Cinderella’s Prince, thwarted in his search, commiserates with his brother, who’s in a similar AGONY over Rapunzel.
For the Baker and his Wife, the pieces are falling in place. They have the cow, a strand of Rapunzel’s hair, Red Riding Hood’s cape – all secured by their sense of teamwork (IT TAKES TWO). Unfortunately, the cow dies. The Witch, furious that her daughter Rapunzel is seeing a Prince, ends up chopping off her hair (STAY WITH ME). ON THE STEPS OF THE PALACE, Cinderella mulls things over: the Prince has spread pitch on the stairs and trapped her so she leaves one of her shoes behind. Having climbed up the beanstalk again, Jack is being pursued by a giant – until, thinking quickly, the lad chops down the beanstalk and the ogre lands dead in the yard with a dull thud. Everything has turned out for the best: the Baker produces the ingredients, the ugly old Witch mixes her potions and restores her beauty, the Baker’s Wife becomes pregnant, Jack – laden with gold – and his cow (restored to life) resume their friendship. Cinderella and Rapunzel marry their Princes. With the exception of Cinderella’s stepsisters, blinded by pigeons, everyone lives happily EVER AFTER…
Once upon a time – later… The Narrator explains that, despite one or two quibbles, everyone is SO HAPPY (PROLOGUE). Suddenly, the characters’ content lives are disrupted when the Baker’s house and the Witch’s garden are reduced to rubble. The only clue: a huge footprint. And so everyone – in various groups – goes back into the woods. Meanwhile, the two princes, marital bliss notwithstanding, have come across Sleeping Beauty and the equally unwakeable Snow White, two new maidens who again have them in AGONY. But, for one of them, there’ll be no need for a messy divorce. A Giant – actually, a giantess – is on the rampage, eager to avenge her husband’s death, and she carelessly tramples Rapunzel to death. The Witch mourns the loss of her daughter (LAMENT) and turns on the Narrator because she doesn’t like the way he’s telling the story. Only after she’s tossed him to the Giantess does it dawn on the community that the story is now out of control. When Jack’s Mother defends her son to the giantess, the Prince’s Steward, who is worried that the giantess will become even more agitated, kills her.
Everyone decides to look for Jack. The Baker’s Wife only finds Cinderella’s Prince, who seduces her by saying that they could die at ANY MOMENT. Indeed, after a few brief MOMENTS IN THE WOODS, she is crushed to death by falling timber that the giantess has dislodged. While Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and the Baker wait for the Baker’s wife to return, the Witch arrives with Jack – and the devastating news of the Baker’s Wife’s demise. Accusations start flying (YOUR FAULT) but the Witch stops the argument in a fit of rage, choosing to join her mother than remaining with this bunch of misfits (THE LAST MIDNIGHT). The Baker is tempted to run away, but an encounter with his father’s ghost inspires him to take responsibility (NO MORE). Devising a plan to slay the Giantess, the Baker, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and Jack comfort each other (NO ONE IS ALONE). They win the final battle with the Giantess and, when peace is restored to the woods, the Baker begins to tell his son their story to and share what they has learned. (FINALE: CHILDREN WILL LISTEN).
Songs cut from this production include: JUST LIKE LAST NIGHT, BACK TO THE PALACE, THE PLAN (proposed but unwritten), READY FOR THE WOODS (proposed but unwritten), BOOM CRUNCH, INTERESTING QUESTIONS, HAVE TO GIVE HER SOMEONE, SECOND MIDNIGHT and an alternative version of MAYBE THEY’RE MAGIC.
Purchases from Amazon.com
From left to right above: 1. Into the Woods 1987 Original Broadway Cast CD. 2. Into the Woods 1991 Original London Cast CD. 3. Into the Woods 2002 Broadway Revival Cast CD. 4. Into the Woods Original Broadway Cast DVD. 5. The Stephen Sondheim DVD Collection including the Into the Woods DVD.
From left to right above: 1. The Annotated Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Anthology. 2. Into the Woods Illustrated Storybook. 3. Into the Woods Script. 4. Into the Woods Vocal Selections. 5. Into the Woods Vocal Score.
Fairy Tales, Folk Tales and Mythology
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