"I wish..."Into the Woods
is a Musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim
that weaves together the fairy tales
, Jack and the Beanstalk
, Little Red Riding Hood
, and Rapunzel
In the first act, a baker and his wife who desperately want a child are told by the witch who cursed their family with infertility that she'll lift the spell if they do something for her first. She sends them on a quest that takes them in and out of the other stories, collecting Cinderella's slipper, Jack's cow, Little Red Riding Hood's...riding hood, and some of Rapunzel's hair. There's also a mysterious old man who appears from time to time, trying to help the quest along for reasons of his own. After a certain amount of deception, theft, and murder — you remember how these stories go — everybody gets what they were wishing for at the beginning, and there's a big song-and-dance number about how they will all live happily ever after
Then comes the second
act, where everybody has to grow up and face the consequences of their actions
The show is one of Sondheim's most famous, alongside Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
. In the year dominated by The Phantom of the Opera
, it was able to snag three Tony Awards, for Best Score, Best Book, and Best Leading Actress (Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife). The original Broadway production has since been followed by a notably contentious revival in 2002, as well as numerous productions across the country at everywhere from the regional to the high school drama level.
Many people are most familiar with the excellent version filmed by PBS under its American Playhouse
banner in 1991 and subsequently released on home video; this was based on the original Broadway production and had most of the same cast. In 2012, a limited-run revival as part of New York's Shakespeare in the Park starred Donna Murphy as the witch — just months after she could be heard playing much the same role in Tangled
.Walt Disney Pictures
released a film adaptation
on Christmas Day, 2014, with Rob Marshall (Chicago
and Pirates of the Caribbean 4
) directing an All-Star Cast
including Anna Kendrick
as Cinderella, Chris Pine
as Prince Charming, Meryl Streep
as the Witch, Johnny Depp
as the Big Bad Wolf and many more. This being a Disney production
, Sondheim himself has confirmed
that this adaptation is Lighter and Softer
than the original, though reports on this front have been conflicting
(linked article contains spoilers for both versions).
Now has a character sheet
Into the Woods provides examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. While Act 1 isn't very action-oriented, they both (along with male counterparts Jack and The Baker) Took a Level in Badass in Act 2, with Cinderella venturing into the woods on her own and dumping her "Prince Charming" (who actually turned out to be a douche), and Little Red Riding Hood replacing her red hood with a fur coat, receiving a knife for self-defense, and becoming a Deadpan Snarking, Axe Crazy Girl with Psycho Weapon threatening to gut any potential attackers. Both ladies are among the only four survivors of the show (five if you count the Baker's infant son) and actively participate in defeating the Big Bad.
- The Baker's Wife displays a take-charge attitude when searching the woods for the four items she needs and also when hunting the giant. Unfortunately, she lets herself be seduced by Cinderella's Prince despite being a married woman, and then gets killed by the giant.
- Jack's Mother earns Action Mom points for standing up to the giant in Act 2. It doesn't end well for her, however.
- Action Survivor: Both the Baker and Cinderella. Neither of them are particularly adept at fighting off all the craziness that comes their way in the musical. Nonetheless, they both prove to be extremely resourceful, determined, and surprisingly courageous. And along with two other characters, they successfully manage to overcome and defeat the Big Bad in the end, after everyone else dies.
- Aerith and Bob: The musical has characters named Jack and...Rapunzel. Although, apparently Rapunzel is a particularly unusual name In-Universe.
Rapunzel's Prince: (after eavesdropping on the Witch and Rapunzel)
Rapunzel, Rapunzel! What a strange name...
Cinderella's Prince: And how do you manage a visit?
Rapunzel's Prince: I just stand in front of her tower, and say, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!" And she lowers the most beautiful head of hair, yellow as corn.
Cinderella's Prince: Rapunzel? You jest. I've never heard of such a name.
- An Aesop: Several, some subtler than others.
"Witches can be right. Giants can be good."
- If you insist on doing every little thing on your own with no help, you're not going to get anywhere.
- All for Nothing: The second act does this to the first act deliberately as a Deconstruction of fairy tales. The first act is a mythic tale with beginning and end, and the second act is life going on and not ending so neatly.
- Ambiguous Syntax: "I need that shoe to have a child!"
- Amusing Injuries: It's really funny when Cinderella, singing instead of paying attention to Florinda's hairdo, twists the bun tighter and tighter while Florinda reels in a circle. It's not funny when Florinda slaps Cinderella for it a second later.
- And You Were There: Depending on the production, some characters with similar traits are played by the same actor. Fo instance, in the PBS version the Mysterious Man and the Narrator have the same actor, as does Cinderella's Prince Charming and the Wolf.
- Anti-Villain: The Witch, who hints at being a Broken Bird.
- The Giantess. Let's face it, she's got a lot to complain about, and she has plenty of reason to be upset with Jack. Most of the deaths she causes are accidents and if she were human, Jack would have been thrown into a dungeon for the things he did to her and her husband.
- Anyone Can Die: Played to the extreme when they kill off the least likely character of all... the Narrator.
- Arbitrary Skepticism:
- Little Red Riding Hood doesn't believe Jack's really been up the beanstalk or that a hen laid a golden egg despite the world they live in. She similarly responds in disbelief to Cinderella talking to birds despite the fact she talked to a wolf.
- The Steward and Cinderella's family don't believe the Baker when he reports the Giantess despite a Giant having just been slain a little while ago.
- Used as a gag when everyone is trying to guess what caused the Witch's garden to be destroyed, listing off Dragons, Giants, Griffins, and Manticores. The Witch disdainfully comments that Manticores aren't real.
- Arc Words:
- Count the number of times they say "children", "giant(s)", "witch(es)", "wish(es)", "wolves", "spell(s)", "right", and "wrong" just in a generic context.
- "I wish" is always sung the exact same way, with the same two notes.
- The words "nice" and "good" — particularly in lines sung by Cinderella and Little Red.
- And what about "wood" or "woods"?
- Armor-Piercing Question: The whole first verse of "Last Midnight" consists of the Witch delivering simple questions to the Baker, Jack, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood: "Told a little lie...stole a little gold...broke a little vow, did you?" Those questions force the heroes to admit that their shortsighted, self-centered wishes and "small" wrongdoings have had major consequences for everyone.
- Author Existence Failure: In-Universe. The characters freak out after the narrator is killed as he was "the only one who knew how the story went."
- Axe Crazy: Little Red Riding Hood, after she and her grandmother are cut out of the Wolf's stomach and start skinning the wolf. She threatens Jack's life just because he takes an interest in her fur cloak! Her grandmother is equally sadistic.
Grandmother: *begins choking the wolf, who is already mutilated and writhing in pain* Kill the devil! Take that knife and cut his evil head off! Let's see the demon sliced into a thousand bits! No! Better yet, let the animal die a painful, agonizing, hideous death!
Red Riding Hood: Granny!
Grandmother: Eeeh, quiet, child! This evil needs to be destroyed! Now, you fetch me some great stones. We'll fill his belly with them, and then we'll watch him try to run away! *giggles gleefully*
Baker: *walks away, disgusted* I will just leave you to your task.
Grandmother: Wait! Don't you want the skins?
Baker: Oh, no, please keep them!
Grandmother: What kind of a hunter are you?!
Baker: I'm a baker!
Grandmother: *drags the baker back into the cottage to skin the wolf*
- Babies Ever After: Played straight initially in the first act because the Baker and his wife's happy ending is finally getting a child. However, subverted in the second act because the baby causes more problems at the beginning and the "happy ending" of them getting a child isn't the ending of the musical.
- Back from the Dead: Milky White is resurrected by the witch in order to create the potion.
- Bad Bad Acting: There are examples of this with the Baker and the Baker's Wife, the most notable being The Baker's Wife trying to get Jack to trade her magic beans for his "cow as white as milk".
Baker's Wife: Beans? Ooooohhhhh! Oh, no! We mustn't give up our beans!
- Beauty Inversion: Any actress who plays the Witch until the end of the first act. The ultimate example may be Bernadette Peters from the original Broadway production.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: One of the main aesops. After all, "wishes come true, not free."
- Big Bad: Subverted, as there is no official main villain in the show. The Witch might come off as the villain at first, but as the show progresses, we learn that her actions are very much justifiable, and eventually, she becomes extremely sympathetic ( mainly after Rapunzel's death). The Giantess, while being a major antagonistic force, simply wanted justice for the death of her husband, and the chaos and death that she had caused are often portrayed as accidents (considering that she was near sighted and had lost her glasses). The only character to be truly evil and despicable is the Wolf, and even he's given a hint of sympathetic light ("Ask a wolf's mother!").
- The Big Bad Wolf: Played straight with the Wolf, although with disturbing overtones about what his actual intentions toward Red are. Traditionally, the wolf suit is as Anatomically Correct as the production feels they can get away with. And since the Wolf is standing like a human (for obvious reasons), it's a lot more obvious than it would be on an actual wolf.
- Big Eater: Little Red Riding Hood. Between the prologue and reaching Granny's, she eats nearly the entire basket of goods she was meant to bring a loaf of bread, a sticky bun (or four), and a few pies. She is even eating when she isn't singing her orders. This is lampshaded by the Narrator after the Wolf eats Red.
Narrator: It was a full day of eating for the both...
- Bittersweet Ending: Rapunzel, Jack's mother, Red's family, and the Baker's wife and the father who only just came back into his life are dead. Cinderella has left her philandering prince. Neither of the Princes seemed to learn a lesson and have happily moved on to their next conquests. The Witch is either dead or gone off to parts unknown, and much of the country has been destroyed by the giantess stomping around. But Jack, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, the Baker, and his child are alive, and all of them having emotionally matured and plan to become a family.
- Blame Game: "Your Fault" is the characters placing blame on each other for their bad choices or the choices of those close to them. They go through primary blame, secondary blame, and then weedle it all down to the Witch's fault for having grown her garden in the first place.
: Wait a minute though, I only stole the gold to get my cow back from you! Little Red Riding Hood
: (to the baker)
So it's your fault! Jack
: Yes! Baker
: No, it isn't! I'd have kept those beans, but our house was cursed. She
made us get a cow to get the curse reversed! Witch
: It's your father's fault that the curse got placed and the place got cursed in the first place!
- Blind Without 'Em: The giantess is nearsighted and so can't actually tell which of the little people running around her feet are the boy she's trying to kill.
- Book Ends: "I wish..."
- Bowdlerise: A "Junior" version of this show is available from the company that licenses the full-length version for community theaters and schools. The entire second act is cut out, both to reduce the voluminous runtime and to produce a kid-friendly version without the cruelly ironic twists of the second act. Some productions replace the ghost of Cinderella's dead mother with a Fairy Godmother (although to be fair, younger viewers probably mistake her to be one anyway).
- Break the Cutie: While it certainly was not the Witch's intention, her treatment of Rapunzel ended up turning into this.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- When the second act rolls around the characters get a little sick of the narrator and set on him.
- Bernadette Peters also talks to one of the audience members when Rapunzel sings for her.
- Brutal Honesty: The Witch.
Little Red Riding Hood: (after the royal family leaves to go hide) I hope the giant steps on them all.
Baker's Wife: Don't say that.
The Witch: You were thinking the same thing.
- The Casanova: Both Princes. They seduce at least two girls each in the duration of the play.
Baker: (about the Prince) I bet he's off seducing some young maiden.
Baker: I'm told that's what princes do.
- Calling the Old Man Out: The Baker does this to The Mysterious Man at the end of act two, resulting in the eleven o'clock number "No More'', in which the absent father helps his son to not repeat his mistakes.
- Character Development: In the end, the only good thing out of the whole mess - aside from the Baker's and his wife's son - was that the (still living) main characters grew as individuals and are ultimately better people than they were before.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Cinderella's Prince tars the steps of the palace to try and keep her from running. In Act II, Cinderella considers doing the same to the Giant's Wife to keep her still so they can kill her.
- The bean Cinderella throws away in Act I allows the Giantess to climb down from the sky kingdom in Act II.
- In the filmed version Jack is seen holding what look like giant glasses in the Act II Prologue. Guess what the giant's main problem is?
- Cinderella Circumstances: Cinderella, obviously.
- Could Have Avoided This Plot: Probably one of the most blatant examples in theater history. When the characters all encounter the Giantess who is looking for the lad Jack who killed her husband, they decide to offer her somebody else as a sacrifice. Unable to figure out what to do, they decide to offer the Narrator. The Narrator reminds them that if he is wiped out, they won't know the outcome of the story. Regardless of this, however, the Witch herself gives the Narrator to the Giantess. Seeing that the Narrator isn't Jack, the Giantess drops the Narrator and he is killed. The Baker's Wife, apparently concerned about how the story will go along without the Narrator, inevitably points out: "We might have thought of something else."
- Though a more or less justifiable example would be after the Witch lays a major Reason You Suck Song on Cinderella, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Baker pointing out what their actions from Act I have gotten them into:
Jack: Maybe I shouldn't have stolen from the Giant.
Little Red Riding Hood: Maybe I shouldn't have strayed from the path.
Cinderella: Maybe I shouldn't have attended the ball.
Baker: Yes, maybe you shouldn't have.
- Crapsack World: The world becomes this during the second act. As the Narrator puts it, "You don't want to live in a world of chaos."
- Crossover: The musical features Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk, with cameos by Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
- Curse Escape Clause: The Witch cannot touch any of the items needed to remove her curse.
- Cut Song: "Giants in the Sky", "On the Steps of the Palace", and "Last Midnight" were all replacements for less appropriate songs written earlier. There was also a song called "The Plan" that was cut. However, the initial versions of those songs are included on the original soundtrack; the prototype of "Giants In The Sky" is notable for being so fast-paced that it's nearly unsingable.
- Cute Clumsy Girl: Cinderella while wearing the gold slippers—they're terrible to walk in. Lampshaded by the Baker's Wife:
Baker's Wife: My, you do take an awful lot of spills, don't you?
- Darkest Hour: Act II. Half the cast dies, the Baker has his Heroic BSOD... everything that can go wrong does go wrong in this Act.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Acknowledged in "No One is Alone" that giants and others beings can be good.
- Dark Reprise
- Inverted with the first parts of "Stay With Me" and "Lament", which later become the happier "Children Will Listen".
- And most ironically, the song "Ever After," where everyone joyously sings about how everything has worked out perfectly, is reprised into "Your Fault" which is the principal five characters trying to place the blame for how everything got so messed up.
- And in a very, very meta example, the melody of "Any Moment" (sung by Cinderella's prince as he seduces the Baker's Wife) is used as the counterpoint in "Moments in the Woods" where she regrets the indiscretion.
- If that weren't enough, "Moments In The Woods" also takes cues from "Maybe They're Magic" and "It Takes Two".
- Darker and Edgier: The entire second half of the play.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Little Red Riding Hood. She snarks at Jack especially, but on occasion to other characters, too.
LRRH: You can talk to birds?
- The Witch. She snarks at everyone with abandon. This is taken Up to Eleven in "The Last Midnight" where she derides everyone because she is so tired of being stuck with selfish people who only think about their Happily Ever Afters.
- Dead Person Conversation
- Cinderella with her mother's spirit when visiting her grave. Mom later stooges off the stepsisters when they try to swipe Cinderella's fiance.
- The Baker and his father in the final act. He's not completely dead — if only in the sense that you carry your parents with you forever. He hangs a lampshade on this.
- The Baker and his wife near the very end.
- Death by Sex: The heroes split up to search for Jack to protect him from a marauding Giant. While she's searching, the Baker's Wife meets up with the Prince and has sex with him; she's crushed by the Giant immediately afterward.
- Well, after she has a soliloquy/musical number that sums her mindset up as "my affair has made me more grateful for what I have but hey it was kind of nice." She's more killed by barely-repentant adultery than killed by sex, since she's a married lady with a child.
- Meanwhile, by contrast, the entirely unrepentant and equally married Prince is punished by hooking up with Sleeping Beauty. Then again, who was expecting something by Stephen Sondheim to be fair?
- Death Song: "Last Midnight" for The Witch. We're not quite sure if she's dead...
- Deconstruction: Of fairy tales, specifically the homogenized children's versions. The original versions are pretty dark but don't have any Where Are They Now scenes.
- Deconstruction Crossover: The play combines no less than five seven if one counts Snow White and Sleeping Beauty fairy tales with some characters fitting into other roles, like the Baker saving Red and her granny, but at the same time, their interactions help pint out the issues the original characters must go through and the consequences their choices brought.
- Denied Food as Punishment: After Jack's mother finds out that he exchanged Milky White for five beans, she sends him to bed without supper.
- Despair Event Horizon
- Respectively, Rapunzel and The Baker's Wife's deaths for The Witch and The Baker.
- Rapunzel is so traumatized she's gone crazy by the beginning of Act Two and eventually throws herself in the Giant's path.
- Did Not Die That Way: The Baker believes that his parents died in a "baking accident". This is lampshaded by the narrator who shrugs in confusion, implying "Hey, I just say what I'm told to." As it turns out, his mother died on the day Rapunzel was born, and his father ran off, too cowardly to face his son over his part in causing this tragedy on the family. Baking was not involved at all.
- Didn't Think This Through: Carried over from the Grimm version of the story, Cinderella's stepmother mutilates her daughter's feet to fit the golden slipper. Really? Daughter's future husband won't notice or care? Worse, she repeats the process with the second daughter after the first one is caught.
- Digital Destruction: Initial pressings of the Blu-Ray release of the filmed version had the 2.0 stereo soundtrack inexplicably converted to mono. A later release corrected this.
- Disappeared Dad: Jack's father. He only gets a passing mention during the prologue ("The mice are getting bolder, the floor's gone slack/your mother's getting older, your father's not back...")
- Disproportionate Retribution: The Baker's father steals the Witch's greens. So she curses anyone who lives in his house from that point onward to be forever barren.
- The Ditherer: Cinderella. Highlighted in "On the Steps of the Palace," when she can't decide whether to let the Prince catch her or to run away back home. She decides not to decide by leaving a shoe on the stair smeared with pitch.
- Distant Duet: "No One is Alone" has Cinderella singing to Little Red Riding Hood (on the ground) while The Baker sings to Jack (high in a tree).
- Does This Remind You of Anything?
- The Wolf and Little Red's entire encounter can be seen as a child predator and his victim, including her song about what she learned, "Nice is not Good" indeed.
- Speaking of which, the Giantess' relationship with Jack may be a bit Mrs. Robinson. "And you know, she's big, but you don't feel small" and "She holds you close to her giant breast" after which Jack also echoes LRRH's words that he "knows things now". The part about "Someone bigger than her comes along the hall to swallow you for lunch" is reminiscent of a husband coming home to find his wife with a lover.
- "Well... perhaps it will take the two of us to get this child."
- Dragged Off to Hell: Both outdoor productions of the show put an interesting spin on the Witch's fate at the end of "Last Midnight". Rather than disappearing into the smoke, she is dragged into the ground by her dead mother.
- Dramatic Irony: When the Baker meets Cinderella in Act 2, he assumes that the Prince is off seducing a woman instead of trying to stop the Giant. Turns out he is and that woman is the Baker's Wife!
- Driven to Suicide: Rapunzel — though up for argument, given how deranged she seemed — and The Witch. Something took her away at the end of "The Last Midnight," and she appears in the epilogue at the same time as the Baker's Wife's ghost.
- Dumb Blonde: Cinderella's stepsisters. Rapunzel also show elements of this in act one. By act two she's fallen apart somewhat.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: A key part of the story, but that said, the characters learn to be careful which path they chose because there will be consequences.
- Eleven O'Clock Number: "Your Fault/Last Midnight."
- Ensemble Cast: Though some characters do get more stage time than others, the plot does not revolve around a singular protagonist and many get approximately equal stage time.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Of the many characters in the show, only Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack, and one of Cinderella's stepsisters, Florinda (The other, Lucinda, is All There in the Script) note are given names. Everyone else is just The Baker, The Witch, etc.
- Everything Has Rhythm: Done twice in the prologue. Once when some cookies get passed from Red Riding Hood to the Baker to his wife to the basket and back to Red, or something along those lines, all to the tempo of the music (and then Red makes real use of the cookies in the middle of a line). The second time happens when Cinderella is twisting her stepsister's hair to the beat. She keeps following the beat, thus making the hair too tight. Her stepsister, needless to say, is less than pleased.
- Exact Words / Loophole Abuse: The Baker needs to find "Hair as yellow as corn." Nothing says that the hair cannot come from an actual ear of corn.
- Extreme Doormat: Cinderella starts off as this, but later Grows A Spine when she stands up to her Prince and dumps him for his philandering ways.
- Extreme Omnivore: After collecting all four of the items, the Witch order the Baker and his wife to feed them to the cow, then milk her.
- Eye of Newt: The Witch says she can lift the curse on the Baker if he brings her several items: 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. Each of these items comes from one of the other fairy tales being told.
- Eye Scream
- Rapunzel's Prince gets his eyes gouged out by thorns as per the original story.
- As do Cinderella's stepsisters (though by birds rather than thorns).
- And the Giantess.
- Famous Last Words:
- "I'M NOT THE LAD!" The Narrator
- "Jack..." Jack's mother
- "And now it's time to leave the woods." The Baker's Wife
- "Because of the way you treated me, I'll never, never be happy!" Rapunzel. At least, these are the last words we actually hear her say in a scene prior to her death, aside from screaming.
- Fashion Hurts: Cinderella's stepmother forces the stepsisters' feet to fit the shoe by cutting off one stepsister's toe and a bit of the other stepsister's heel.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The Baker, Cinderella, Jack and Little Red.
- First Law of Tragicomedies: The first half is set up as a mix of traditional fairy tales, with plenty of humour, although some of it is Black Comedy due to not going with a Disneyfied version of all of the tales (the fate of Cinderella's stepsisters in particular stand out). The second act shows the fallout of everything that happened to achieve the "happily ever after" of the first act. Despite starting with some very funny scenes, it quickly takes a turn for the worse and character start dropping like flies. There's even a reprise of a very funny song, Agony, a duet for the two Princes talking about wanting unreachable women, which is still hilarious but has a darker undertone due to the fact that they are now cheating on the wives they spent the first act trying to get.
- The last lines of the 1st Act are "And happy ever after!", right after the narrator adds "To be continued."
- There's also the Baker's Wife eagerly asking Cinderella's questions about the Prince and admiring the Princes.
- Additionally, when Cinderella's prince and the Steward meet the Baker's Wife and she lies about Cinderella's whereabouts, Cinderella's Prince can be seen glancing back at the Baker's Wife in many productions.
- During the prologue:
Cinderella: What's the good of being good if everyone is blind? Always leaving you behind...
- This little conversation between the Baker and the Mysterious Man:
Mysterious Man: When is a white cow not a white cow?
Baker: I don't know! Leave me alone!
Mysterious Man: Haven't I left you alone long enough?
- Fractured Fairy Tale: The story combines several well-known fairy tales, initially playing them straight but then gradually deconstructing them.
- Friend to All Living Things: Cinderella to her bird sidekicks.
- From Bad to Worse: The second act, particularly with the death of the Narrator, immediately after which Rapunzel and Jack's Mother also die, and the Baker and his wife exchange angry last words to each other.
- Genius Bruiser: "NOT ALL GIANTS ARE DUMB!" The witch also highlights the fact that this is what makes a giant so dangerous.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In both professional outdoor productions, the sexual tension between the Wolf and Little Red is heightened even further when the Wolf appears to be ''eating'' Little Red... and she enjoys it.
- Ghost Song: Twice: "No More" and the brief reprise of "No One Is Alone" by The Baker's Wife before "Children Will Listen".
- Girl in the Tower: Rapunzel. The ridiculousness of this is lampshaded by Cinderella's Prince.
- Girl with Psycho Weapon: Little Red Riding Hood, with her "beautiful blade" that her grandmother gave her for protection.
- Good Is Not Nice: A major theme of the story. The Witch may do some dastardly or despicable things, but for the most part, they're often for the better. The Wolf, on the other hand, represents the exact opposite of this trope, given that he's certainly nice to Little Red, but has intentions that are FAR from good.
Little Red: Although scary is exciting, nice is different than good.
- Gotta Catch Them All: The Witch requires the Baker couple to retrieve four fairy-tale related items to break a curse.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Pointed out in act 2. The giantess that was causing so much destruction was rightly furious at Jack, and the chaos and carnage she caused was largely accidental. The characters spend a scene or two contemplating just who is the villain anymore. Probably best summed up in "No One Is Alone":
"Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what's right. You decide what's good. Someone is on your side/ someone else is not/ While we're seeing our side/ maybe we forgot: They are not alone. No one is alone."
- Grammar Nazi: A sadly oft-missed joke, Rapunzel's Prince points out that the plural of "Dwarf" is, in fact, "Dwarfs," not "Dwarves."
- Grew a Spine: Towards the end of the musical, Cinderella stands up to her Prince and dumps him for his philandering ways.
- Grief Song: "The Witch's Lament" and "No More".
- Grimmification: Of Grimm stories themselves! The musical spends its first act telling the combined stories of "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", along with an original story along the same lines about a baker and his wife that want to have a child and live next door to the witch from "Rapunzel". Then the second act examines the aftermath of everyone's selfish behavior and the bloodshed that ensues.
- It also uses the less extreme version of the standard Grimmification of "Little Red Riding Hood" — her song "I Know Things Now" being even more blatantly about lost innocence than the original story was.
- The wolf's, er, prominent genitalia in the filmed version. And the double entendres in "Hello, Little Girl". "Look at that flesh, pink and plump!" And the mentions of "carnality". He actually hip-thrusts at the audience at the end.
- The Wolf and Prince Charming are traditionally played by the same actor. This is no accident.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Between the princes, comparing their tragic loves in the song "Agony" and its reprise.
Agony! Far more painful than yooooours!
- Happily Ever After: Subverted, or rather deconstructed in "So Happy" — the characters have all their wishes, but still aren't happy.
- Happily Married: The Baker and his Wife.
- Heroic BSOD: The Baker, BIG TIME after his wife dies.
- Hope Springs Eternal: By the end of the play, the Baker has come to see these.
Baker, Jack, Cinderella, LRRH: The light is getting dimmer.
Baker: I think I see a glimmer—
- Hot Witch: The witch transforms herself from ugly to hot. It is revealed that she was also beautiful in the backstory, and that her ugliness was a side-effect of the curse she fell under after losing the magic beans. It's subverted when it's revealed that the price for regaining her beauty is losing her magic powers.
- Hypocritical Humor: At the end of Act 2, Little Red says to Cinderella, "You can talk to birds?". This is effective and funny… until you realize that Little Red had an entire conversation with a wolf in Act 1.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Several:
- Baker's Wife to Baker;
- Rapunzel to Witch (though ironically not Rapunzel's Prince);
- Jack's Mother to Jack
- And to a lesser extent, Granny to Little Red.
- Instant Seduction: "Anything can happen in the woods... may I kiss you?"
- Interactive Narrator: Hoo boy. He's even mortal. Very mortal.
- In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: The Witch's perception of human nature.
- It Can Think: The witch acknowledges this trope upon realizing a giant entered the kingdom.
"With a giant, we'll all have to battle. A giant's the worst. A giant has a brain. Hard to outwit a giant."
- "I Want" Song: Really, the first act is one big "I Want" Song. Or "I Wish" Song.
- Each act in Into the Woods begins with "I Wish". The one in Act 2 is more of a Dark Reprise.
- Cinderella sings in "A Very Nice Prince" that "What I want most of all... is to know what I want" and relays a similar sentiment in "On the Steps of the Palace". Indeed, one of her defining character traits is indecisiveness and not knowing if she wants the ball or the prince.
- I Warned You: The first part of the Witch's Lament, addressed to the now-dead Rapunzel: "This is the world I meant, couldn't you listen?"
- Karma Houdini
- While the stepsisters are blinded by birds, their mother and stepfather — arguably even more responsible for Cinderella's suffering — never gets such treatment, although it is implied that the whole family starves to death at the end: "when going to hide know how to get there, how to get back, and eat first." The 2002 revival also has them dressed like servants at court...
- Worse still, Cinderella's Prince seduces the Baker's wife. She realizes that it was a mistake and learns a lesson from it, and promptly dies. He continues on without changing and winds up with Sleeping Beauty.
- Even worse, the other prince watches Rapunzel die, runs off in fear (or grief, depending upon how he is played) and only shows up again in the finale with Snow White. At least Cinderella's Prince is shown to be conflicted, and is even told by Cinderella that she no longer wants to be his. To Rapunzel's prince's credit, his wife was insane and he had two kids to think about.
- One could argue that the two princes are obsessed with the new, never being happy with what they have, always being disappointed in what they can't have, and thus will never actually have a happy life.
- The Steward gets away with murder.
- Jack is actually the biggest one. Even though everyone is guilty in some way for the events of Act 2, Jack is arguably the most responsible. On his first trip up the beanstalk, after being taken care of by the Giantess, he steals her gold when her husband appears and escapes. He later goes back simply to steal more to get his cow back. Then, after being taunted by a girl he had probably never met before in his life, he goes back and steals AGAIN just to prove her wrong. In Act 2, he never really pays for his actions; the only punishment he gets is the indirect death of his mother, and when he learns about this, he wants to kill the man who tried to stop her from pissing the Giantess off more, instead of feeling guilt for causing the whole mess in the first place.
- List Song: The Witch's Rap in the Prologue.
- Little Brother Is Watching: The song "Children Will Listen" warns parents that children will copy their behavior.
- Little Red Fighting Hood: Little Red Riding Hood is a Sociopathic Hero. The work goes in a different direction than the norm though as part of the Character Development involves her learning morality.
- Living Prop: In the original production of Into the Woods, Milky White was usually just a wooden figurine of a cow, just like the horses. But in the revivals and more modern productions usually Milky White is played by a character in an elaborate cow costume, though they still mostly just stand in place and are then dragged on and off stage.
- Long-Lost Relative: An interesting aversion of sorts in Into the Woods, where the baker and Rapunzel are these, but neither realizes and nor does their being related have any effect on the plot.
- The Mysterious Man also counts since he hasn't seen The Baker since he was a baby/toddler. However, he does affect the First Act unlike his daughter.
- Losing the Team Spirit: A good chunk of Act II after The Baker's Wife is killed and The Baker has his Heroic BSOD, abandoning the other surviving characters for a while.
- The Lost Woods: The titular Woods.
- Loving a Shadow:
- Cinderella and her Prince's character development comes from them both realizing they do not love each other, but will always love "The Prince at the ball" and "The girl who ran away".
- The Baker's Wife comes to realize that she longed less for a Prince than she did for his glamorous lifestyle.
- Make a Wish: "I wish..." opens the show. Magic, however, comes in only indirectly — Cinderella going to her mother's grave to request silver and gold (a dress appears); the Baker and his Wife agree to fulfill the demands of the Witch, who would then allow them to conceive a child. However, all of their wishes come back to haunt them in Act II, which opens with the same words. Ends with them, too. (But it's usually drowned out by the applause.)
- Mama Bear:
- If you really want to count the Witch being angry that the Baker's Wife yanked out a lock of Rapunzel's hair because she truly loves her, then she's one as well.
- For as dumb as she is, Jack's Mother.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and an original work all exist in the same world, in the same kingdom, in the same woods.
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: The opening numbers of both acts, "Ever After", "First Midnight", and to a lesser extent "Second Midnight".
- Megannekko: Cinderella in the original cast, but not universally. And only for the first song.
- Minor Character, Major Song: The Wolf sings most of "Hello, Little Girl", a song about how he hungers for Little Red Riding Hood.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: When The Baker, Jack, Little Red and Cinderella team up to kill the other giant.
- Missing Mom: The Baker's mother. Cinderella's mother also, who helps her out as a ghost/spirit in the tree. But in Act 2, the tree is destroyed. By the end of Act 2, The Baker, Cinderella, Little Red, Jack, and the Baker's Son all have dead mothers.
- My Beloved Smother
- Rapunzel summed it up best.
What's the matter? Rapunzel: Oh, nothing!
You just locked me in a tower without company for fourteen years, then you blinded my Prince and banished me to a desert where I had little to eat, and again no company, and then bore twins! Because of the way you treated me, (cries)
I'll never, never be happy! beat Witch: (defensive, yet sincere)
I was just trying to be a good mother.
- Jack's Mother is pretty controlling too... though given what an Idiot Hero he is, Jack might genuinely need it.
- Mythology Gag: The first act keeps all the most important points in the original fairytales, but they're played hilariously, including the parts you never thought could actually be funny. Notable examples include Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off their toes, Little Red and Granny coming out of the Wolf's stomach, and Rapunzel crying into the prince's eyes.
- The show also plays with the fact that Cinderella's slippers are incredibly valuable. Wouldn't they be a little hard to walk in? Yes. According to Cinderella, they're not very good for dancing either.
- How does the Witch climb up Rapunzel's hair without any trouble and without hurting the girl? She doesn't.
- Narrator All Along: In the recent outdoor productions, the child Narrator turns out to be the Baker and his Wife's son. However, because of the events in Act 2, there is some disagreement on the accuracy of this.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: The Baker and his wife. MAJOR Tearjerker.
- Never My Fault: The whole premise for the song, "Your Fault", until the Witch calls everyone out on it
- Good Is Not Nice: Or more accurately "Nice Is Different Than Good", as the wolf is very nice to Red Ridinghood initially, the easier to eventually kill her.
- No Body Left Behind: In the Regent's Park Open Air (and later the Shakespeare in the Park) production, Rapunzel's twins turn into dust after her death.
- No, Except Yes: From when the Witch reveals to the Baker that she claimed his younger sibling as payment for a wish.
Baker: I had a brother?
Witch: No! But you had a sister.
- No Fourth Wall: Especially in the PBS filming where The Witch talks to a little boy in the audience for a moment.
- No Name Given: Only Jack, Cinderella, Cinderella's stepsisters, and Rapunzel have actual names and the stepsisters are never referred to by their names in the dialogue.
- Nominal Hero: Used as part of its deconstruction of Fairy Tales. Everything that goes wrong in the Darker and Edgier second act is a direct or indirect result of the heroes putting their own Happily Ever After above the greater good. By the end, the cast admits that they have no idea who's the hero and who's the villain, and the most sympathetic character is the Wicked Witch who was the first act's Big Bad.
The Witch: You're so nice. You're not good, you're not bad, you're just... nice. I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right.
- Noodle Incident: The Baker's parents supposedly died in "a baking accident."
- Off the Rails: Extremely so, and very suddenly, in the second act when the characters give the narrator to the Giant's wife who drops him to his death when she sees he isn't Jack.
- Original Cast Precedent: Responsible most prominently for the Acting for Two that normally happens (see the Trivia tab for more details).
- Our Giants Are Bigger: The giants are so big that they don't fit on stage, and when one of them steps on a human character all the lights go out... Doom, gloom, BOOM, cruunnnch...
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Played With with Cinderella's disguise in the second act to get out of the palace. It works on the people in the palace, who mistake her for a commoner, and it works for a little bit on the Baker.
Baker: You look just like the Princess, except...dirty. Oh, you are the Princess! (throws himself at her feet)
- Parental Substitute: The Baker and Cinderella become this to Little Red Riding Hood and Jack.
- Patter Song
- "Your Fault", and the Witch's raps in the act openers.
- "Maybe They're Magic" and "Moments in the Woods"!
- Pet the Dog: The Witch towards Rapunzel, except when she's angry at her. In the first act, she instantly changes emotion and starts fawning every time she hears Rapunzel singing.
- Playing a Tree: Since the 2002 revival, Milky White has been played by a live actor in many productions. The results range from Tear Jerker to Crowning Moment of Funny.
- Plot Coupon: The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the slipper as pure as gold, and the hair as yellow as corn that the Baker and his wife need to bring to the Witch in order to be able to conceive a child.
- Plot Tailored to the Party: The items needed for the Witch's spell just happen to perfectly correspond to items owned by the people in the woods at the time she needs them.
- Posthumous Character: The Baker's father, who set most of the plot into motion years earlier, but was believed to have perished in a "baking accident". Zig-zagged when it turns out that the Mysterious Old Man is the Baker's father, whose reveal comes just in time for him to die again, only to kind of come back to life to sing a duet with the Baker in Act II.
- Post Modernism: The narrator is a character of his own. He insists that he isn't part of the story, but still perishes at the hand of a character – after which the story becomes quite chaotic.
- The Pratfall: Cinderella has a tough time running in those shoes...
- Prince Charming: Deconstructed with both princes. See Prince Charmless below.
- Prince Charmless: Both princes. They're charming, but selfish and only care about their own happiness. They willingly cheat on their wives because they were getting bored and saw something else they wanted.
Cinderella's Prince: I was raised to be charming, not sincere.
- After Cinderella's Prince engaged himself with the Baker's Wife, he immediately told her that it was just a moment in the woods, meaning it's something that was never to happen again. His womanizing ways result in the Baker's Wife staying in the area where she dies and Cinderella leaving him because of his brief affair.
- Princess Classic: Deconstructed/subverted with Cinderella and Rapunzel, who are not without their flaws, and are given more depth and character development.
- Prolonged Prologue: The opening number lasts 12 minutes on the original cast album, and that's with some lines of dialogue removed.
- Promotion to Parent: In Act II, Cinderella and the Baker have to move on from young adults who still rely on the ideals of their (absent) parents, to being mentors to Little Red and Jack, respectively. Played for laughs when Jack asks who will take care of him now that his mother is dead, and Little Red chimes in with "I'll be your mother now". Made even better by the fact that, in many productions, Red is clearly younger than Jack, by at least a couple years.
- Quarreling Song: "Your Fault" from has all the fairy-tale characters arguing in a Patter Song.
- Questionable Consent: The encounter between the Baker's wife and the Prince. The power dynamics at play prevent her from effectively refusing him.
- Rage Against the Author: They give the Narrator to the Giantess to save themselves.
- Rags to Royalty: Cinderella. She grows dissatisfied with the royal lifestyle, however, and this dissatisfaction combined with her Prince's philandering ways cause her to give up her life as royalty.
- Reality Ensues: This kicks in hard in Act II. A Fourth Date Marriage does not a successful relationship make, particularly when you've married a Prince Charmless. Having a child doesn't automatically improve your life when you still have Parental Abandonment issues to deal with. Spending fourteen years locked in a tower with almost no one to talk to, and then wandering pregnant in the wilderness, does nothing for your mental health...and if you kill a Giantess's husband, she's not just going to forgive and forget...
- Remake Cameo: Chip Zien, who starred as The Baker in the original Broadway production appeared in the 2012 Shakespeare in the Park production as The Mysterious Man (his original character's father) and Cinderella's Father. That same year, Danielle Ferland, who originated Little Red, later starred in the Westport Country Playhouse production as The Baker's Wife.
- Rhymes on a Dime
- A lot of The Witch's dialogue during the Act I and II openings.
- Averted with the Mysterious Man, who has clearly rehearsed his rhyming introduction.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Averted in that both Princes are frickin' useless. Played with in that Cinderella tries to help, but has to dress as a commoner to do so.
- Rule of Three: In Act 1, there are three days of events.
- Samus is a Girl: "The Giant's a woman!"
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Boom Crunch", the Witch's erratic showstopper that was cut fits this trope to a T. Its replacement, "Last Midnight", is tamer. In either version, the Witch lectures the protagonists and then goes crazy and curses herself to disappear.
- Screaming Woman: Little Red Riding Hood uses this to get her cape back from the Baker. A more melodic version ("Ah ha-ah ah-ha...") is used as Rapunzel's main line, especially in "First Midnight" and the finale (she also does the non-melodic version after going insane).
- Shout-Out: To Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
- Significant Double Casting: The narrator plays another role the baker's father, as part of breaking the fourth wall, and also because they both try to have as little to do with the story as possible. Also, the Big Bad Wolf is presented as being very lusty, and his actor also plays one of the lecherous Princes.
- So Happy Together: The second act begins with contentedly singing "So Happy." Then things come literally crashing down.
- The Soprano: Averted (mostly) with both Cinderella and Rapunzel, at least by the second act — they both have quite a bit of ingenue about them, but neither of them is a Purity Sue or Satellite Love Interest.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Cinderella can communicate with and understand birds. This is lampshaded by Little Red Riding Hood:
LRRH: You can talk to birds?
- Spit Take: At least in the original production, watch the Baker's reaction to Little Red's "Never can tell what lies ahead, for all that I know she's already dead."
- Spoof Aesop: Several characters learn the wrong lessons from their troubles, like the Witch saying "I had everything but beauty. I had power!", or Cinderella's song "On the Steps of the Palace", about learning to duck important decisions.
- "If the end is right it justifies...the beans!"
- Stepford Smiler: Cinderella's stepsisters at the start of Act 2. They're blinded and lame but they still insist that they're happy as long as Cinderella is happy.
- Sticky Situation: Cinderella flees the ball only to step, and get stuck, in pitch that Prince Charming had previously spread on the palace stairs to prevent her escape (as in some Older Than Steam tellings of the Cinderella tale).
- Stop Worshipping Me: Cinderella's attitude to the other characters, such as the Baker, bowing to her.
Baker: Oh, you are the Princess! (throws himself at her feet)
Cinderella: No, no. Get up. I'm not the Princess here.
- Survivor Guilt: The surviving characters at the end of the show. Especially The Baker.
- Tasty Gold: The Baker's Wife checks to see if Cinderella's slipper was really made of gold by biting it.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Witch really didn't like having to rely on the Baker and his Wife to help her.
- They've Come So Far Song: "It Takes Two" has the Baker and his wife singing about how their quest has helped them develop character.
- Took a Level in Badass: The Baker, Jack, Cinderella and Little Red.
- Totally Radical: The Witch's Patter Songs have elements of this, musically, being Sondheim and the orchestrator's idea of what rap music sounded like.
- Tough Love: This may have been the Witch's excuse for how she treated Rapunzel.
The Witch: I was trying to be a good mother.
- Traumatic Haircut: The Witch angrily cuts off Rapunzel's hair after she discovers she let her prince in the tower and banishes her to the desert.
- Trampled Underfoot: Rapunzel, Little Red's mother and grandmother, the Baker's Wife (depending on the production), and quite possibly an unknown amount of citizens all meet their ends under the foot of the Giant.
- True Companions: By the end of the show, the Baker, Cinderella, Jack, and Red Riding Hood, as the surviving heroes seemed destined to become these.
- Twice Told Tale: The show will be massively confusing to anyone who doesn't know the original fairy tales; fortunately, anyone who watches will know them from their childhood.
- Two Act Structure: The play wraps up its massive Fairy Tale Crossover as neat and tidy as a military-school bunkroom in the first act, and then goes into the repercussions of everyone's means of getting their happy endings with a far-less-defined sense of what to do, brought home by killing the Narrator.
- Unnamed Parent: Half the cast — The Baker and his Wife, Jack's Mother, Cinderella's Mother and Father, The Mysterious Man.
- Vain Sorceress: Brilliantly deconstructed with the Witch. She trades her powers in to get back her (rightfully) good looks, only to massively regret it later. She's not so much Ax-Crazy over being ugly as she is weary of being treated like a freak.
- Villain Love Song: "Hello Little Girl," sung by the Wolf to Red, and "Any Moment," sung by Cinderella's Prince to the Baker's Wife.
- Villain Song: "Hello Little Girl", sung by the Wolf.
- Voice of the Legion: Normally, this is the voice of the Giantess.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: The two princes run on this trope. They obsess in the song "Agony" over the women they can't have, but once those are won they're immediately off pursuing a new set of seemingly unattainable women (with occasional dalliances on the side). It's all capped off by this exchange, as Cinderella and her Prince break up:
Cinderella's Prince: I shall always love the maiden who ran away.
Cinderella: And I, the faraway prince.
- Wham Line: When Red Riding Hood enters, she says that she found her house collapsed, and the music stops briefly when she says that she couldn't find her mother.
- Wham Shot: Act Two is going great, everyone's "So happy" — until the Giantess enters.
- What Happened to the Mouse?
- What Happened to the Cow? It probably died of indigestion. Or got crushed when the giantess crushed Jack's house.
- Rapunzel's twin babies. In some productions, they die with their mother under the Giantess' foot. In case you didn't get that Act II was going to be rough...
- The witch tells the baker offhand that he has a sister that the witch had taken from his parents. The narrator confirms that Rapunzel is indeed his sister. This is never brought up or mentioned, and none of the characters bother with this connection.
- An example in-story during act two: the heroes have to do some quick thinking to remember, "What happened to the last magic bean?" The answer: The Baker's Wife tried to pawn it to Cinderella, who just threw it aside, and the Wife never found it. That allowed that bean to take root and grow into a second beanstalk.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Brought up during the second act of Into the Woods, when the characters are figuring out how to deal with a rampaging giant:
Witch: Since when did you get so squeamish? How many wolves have you carved up?
Little Red Riding Hood: A wolf's not the same as a person!
Witch: Ask a wolf's mother.
- Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella also discuss this before killing the Giantess:
LRRH: A giant's still a person, isn't it?
- What the Hell, Hero?
- The Witch's interruption of "Your Fault" with "Last Midnight" strongly involves calling out the other main characters for their contributions to the general misery.
- "Your Fault", meanwhile, is everyone calling everyone out for awhile, before deciding to throw all the blame on the Witch, who is definitely not blameless.
- "No More" opens with the Baker calling his father out on his actions. And the rest of the song is the Baker's father calling the Baker out on his decision to run away from his problems.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: The Baker and his wife had to get the ingredients before midnight of the third day, although interestingly averted with Cinderella as her dress was permanent and she left before midnight on all three nights.
- Wicked Stepmother: Cinderella's stepmother, who treats her like dirt and forces her to serve as a servant to her and her biological daughters.
- Wicked Witch: The Witch is a subversion of sorts: her evil deeds happened in the backstory and during the story itself she does more to help the protagonists than hinder them. The other characters blame her nevertheless in "Your Fault."
- She still treats Rapunzel and her Prince pretty wickedly during the story once she learns about their relationship.
- Wise Tree: The tree that is at Cinderella's mother's grave, where the mother's spirit lives.
- Would Hurt a Child: In the open air productions where the Narrator is played by a child, the characters are still happy to sacrifice him to the Giantess. Don't worry, he gets better.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: The Witch's Villainous Breakdown Crowning Music of Awesome, "The Last Midnight".
- Wrong Genre Savvy: After the giantess attacks the characters return to the woods, confident in the grit and determination they acquired to achieve their happy endings in the first act. It's not going to be enough. It's not going to be anywhere near enough.
- Lampshaded by the Baker's Wife when she is being seduced by Cinderella's Prince. She sings, "This is ridiculous, what am I doing here, I'm in the wrong story..."
- The Narrator suffers from this worse. He thought he was in a classic fairy tale and his job was to tell the story from the safe side of a thick fourth wall.
- You Are Not Alone: "No One" is, after all. Should be noted they acknowledge even the "bad guys" are not alone.
Cinderella: "Sometimes people leave you,
Halfway through the Wood,
Others may deceive you,
You decide what's good!
But you are not alone.
No one is alone."
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: At the conclusion of the first act, all the subplots are resolved and every fairy tale character is singing Happy Ever After. After the intermission, consequences of the first act unfold, and everything goes to hell.
- Averted with Into The Woods Junior, a Bowdlerised version of the play for children's school and community theater productions that literally omits the entire second act.
"And happily ever after!"