One of the shows that I think really ended up making me fall in love with Broadway and always be a permanent fan has got to be a classic Stephen Sondheim show, Into the Woods. Into the woods is a story about life lessons, greed, envy, happiness, love, sharing, adultery and pretty much everything else the Church warns you about and adds in some music and dancing. There is murder and plotting and even love and shopping and while you’re watching the mass chaos of a show with a million twists and turns, you’re also watching it from the perspective of your favorite childhood characters acting it out from their own perspectives.
Into the woods is actually the story of storybook characters coming to life and how they interact with each other. You have Cinderella and her ugly stepsisters. You have Red Riding Hood and an anatomically correct Big Bad Wolf. A Rapunzel who is locked in a tower by a Wicked Witch. Jack who climbs a bean stock and disobeys his mother. You have kings and princes, you have mentions of Snow White and you have the Baker and his Wife and many more of your favorite storybook characters. The thing that you have to remember is that the actual storybook stories aren’t always the way that Disney likes to make you think they happened.
Disney is about making everything have a happy ending and removing all of the gore and bad parts of stories. Into the Woods on Broadway actually kept the original story lines and even though I love the Disney version I have to say that the original stories are much better. You have the stepsisters cutting off their feet to fit into glass slippers and you have Cinderella talking to a tree which represents her Mother instead of a Fairy Godmother (which Whitney Houston did an amazing job performing in the Movie version of Cinderella starring Brandy). You have all of the characters living their lives the way the stories were originally told and then slowly each of them find one way or another to interact with each other and eventually everyone ends up in one big fairy tale with all of their paths crossed and you finally get to see who the hero’s are and who is really a coward. I love that the Witch turns out to be the smart one, not necessarily the “nice” one but the practical one. You have the people who want to do only good but never really address that while saving one or two lives they still murder someone else. I hate that the show doesn’t ever bring that part up but then again it would end up being an extra half hour if they had to. I almost feel bad for the female Giant who ends up getting slaughtered because of decision of the Hero’s to protect themselves and the two kids they end up taking on as their own. The Witch in Into the Woods is who sold me on the show originally.
I was in my car and heard a rap about vegetables on a mixtape and thought it was the coolest thing. I still have no idea where it came from. When I asked everyone I knew who sang it it turned out to be none other than the fabulous Bernadette Peters playing the title role of the Witch. Not only did I become a fan of the show but I also became a fan of Bernadette Peters and quickly went to go find other shows she had been in. The thing is that even though you may fall in love with a cast or a certain voice playing a part, if it was before YouTube.com or they never recorded that cast then the talent and show is lost forever to the people who were not able to get to see the show in person. Luckily when it came to Into the Woods, the cast that starred Bernadette Peters was recorded and released on video so I not only got to see her perform the character of the Wicked Witch but I also got to watch it over and over again.
The songs from Into the Woods have been made famous not only because of the fact that they were in a Stephen Sondheim show and performed by Bernadette Peters, but other famous singers and Broadway Stars like Barbra Streisand have picked up the songs and made their own twists on them. The soundtrack to Into the Woods is one of the most beautiful soundtracks if you like classic musical theatre. They don’t have the ballads or ensemble of Andrew Lloyd Weber or the fun and exciting styles of Rent or Rock Operas but what they do have is the timeless and classic Stephen Sondheim touch and spirit that every broadway fan loves.
Into the Woods is an amazing show and perfect for almost all ages. The show would be boring and probably not one parents would want little kids to see but if you have teenagers and older kids and want a fun night out at the theatre, you cannot go wrong with Into the Woods if you want to watch your favorite childhood fairy tales come to life and all of them get mixed together. I give Into the Woods 3 out of 5 stars.