Into the Woods is a Musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim that weaves together the fairy tales of Cinderella, 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, right? — 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 and Company. 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 early 2012, it was announced that Walt Disney Pictures had acquired the film rights, placing Rob Marshall (Chicago and Pirates of the Caribbean 4) into the director's chair and featuring 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. The film version is slated for release on Christmas day, 2014. The same year, an outdoor production starring Donna Murphy, (coincidentally playing the same role in Tangled) opened in Shakespeare in the Park.Now has a character sheet.
Into the Woods provides examples of the following tropes:
According to Original Cast Precedent, the Narrator and the Mysterious Man are played by the same actor. Same goes for Cinderella's Prince and the Wolf, as well as Cinderella's Mother and the Giantess and Granny. Usually played in an And You Were There fashion, at least for the first two actors.
In the Broadway revival, Cinderella's Mother was played by a recording of Cinderella's own actress.
Blind Without 'Em: The giant was nearsighted and lost her glasses, leading to deadly results.
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. Justified in that the target demographic for the junior version is elementary school students. Not to mention that the play would end up running for hours if they kept Act Two in. The show is still performed in its entirety in middle and high school productions.
Character Development: In the end, the only good thing out of the whole mess 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 which Cinderella throws away in Act I allows the Giantess to climb down from the sky kingdom in Act II.
When the characters try to offer the Narrator to the Giantess as a sacrifice, the Narrator reminds them that the story would be lost if he was obliterated. Regardless of this, however, the Witch gives the Narrator to the Giantess anyway, and as soon as she sees that the Narrator isn't Jack, the Narrator is dropped from her hand and killed. Possibly concerned of the subsequent events of the story without the Narrator, the Baker's Wife 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, especially after the Narrator dies, after he says, prophetically, "You don't want to live in a world of chaos."
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 the counterpoint in "Moments in the Woods" where she regrets the discretion.
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.
Disappeared Dad: Jack's. Mentioned as being "not back" for one line in the first act and never brought up again.
The Wolf gets particularly excited about getting to devour Little Red Riding Hood, and she too reminisces about how he "excited" her and showed her "such new things" she had never seen before.
"Well... perhaps it will take the two of us to get this child."
Double Standard: See Karma Houdini below, but in a nutshell: The Baker's Wife is unfaithful and dies moments later, while the Princes — who were also being unfaithful — forget their wives and find other women to rescue, marry, and presumably cheat on again. Justified (?) in that the Baker's Wife's behavior is not portrayed as making her a horrible person, and the Princes' behavior is not portrayed as being reasonable or excusable.
Well, the latter is up for interpretation. It could also be interpreted that she didn't purposely kill herself, and that she was so caught up in the moment that she didn't remember that her mother would punish her.
She does actually call to her mother at the end of the song - "Alright, Mother when?/Lost the beans again/Punish me the way you did then!/Give me claws and a hunch/Just away from this bunch". It is possible, however, and very probable that she didn't know the second time she lost them would kill her, which supports the "didn't mean to kill herself" argument.
Dumb Blonde: Cinderella's stepsisters. Rapunzel also show elements of this in act one. By act two she's fallen apart somewhat.
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 and Jack get actual names. The stepsisters are given the names "Florinda" and "Lucinda" in the script, but are never referred to as such in the actual dialogue.
The Narrator uses one of their names at exactly one point at the end of Act I - when Cinderella's Prince comes to have them try the shoe. He says it is taken into "Florinda's room", and then Lucinda is referred to as the "other sister" when it is her turn. Either way, it allows the audience to tell the difference after that.
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 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.
The last lines of the 1st Act are "Happily 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.
For the Evulz: Because watching the Baker's father cry and the Baker's mother die when she claimed Rapunzel wasn't enough to mollify the Witch, she cursed the Baker to never have children.
Fractured Fairy Tale: The story is a mixture of at least seven different fairy tales and conflicts driven from this strange mixture.
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.
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".
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."
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Witch is more than just a classic villain, especially considering her moment of anguish after Rapunzel dies, and the fact that she, of all people, is the one who sings the beautiful "ChildrenWillListen" at the end.
While the stepsisters are blinded by pigeons, 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."
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, 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.
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.
To Rapunzel's prince's credit, his wife was insane and he had two kids to think about.
Jack is actually arguably 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 stalk, after being taken care of by the Giantess, 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 in his life, he goes back and steals AGAIN just to prove her wrong. In Act 2, he never pays for his actions. The only punishment he has is the indirect death of his mother, and he 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 it all in the first place.
Both Princes (see Ham-to-Ham Combat above), but Cinderella's Prince is definitely more of this trope, since not only does he get another scene where he flirts with the Baker's Wife and eventually seduces her, but the actor who plays him usually plays the Wolf as well.
Don't forget Bernadette Peters as the Witch.
Lampshade Hanging: Little Red to Cinderella in the end of act two: "You can talk to birds?"
Every time someone meets Rapunzel, they feel the need to point out how much of a strange name they have.
Last Request: Jack's Mother, right before dying, demands that the Baker protect Jack from the giantess. And the Baker obliges to the best of his ability.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Moments in the Woods", the Baker's Wife sings "I'm in the wrong story". According to Word of God, Sondheim added this line after he realized that the story of the baker and his wife feels much more contemporary than the others. Joanna Gleason, who played the Baker's Wife, felt like her character was in the wrong story, and so did Sondheim. He felt like this needed acknowledgement.
Leitmotif: A short musical theme, heard when Jack gives the beans to the Baker, finds its way into several of the songs, and is the entire basis for the Witch's "Stay With Me".
Living Prop: Literally? 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: Pretty much the Baker's family. His younger sister was taken away from him and his family and his father abandons him and doesn't contact him until he's married and is attempting to break the family curse.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Missing Mom: Cinderella's mother, 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.
Witch: 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! Witch:(beat; 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 playedhilariously, 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.
Also, how does the Witch climb up Rapunzel's hair without any trouble and without hurting the girl? She doesn't.
Off the Rails: Extremely so, and very suddenly, in the second act when the characters give the narrator to the Giant's wife who kills him by dropping when she sees he isn't Jack.
Only Sane Man: The Witch has elements of this in Act Two, when she shows herself to be the only person who understands the gravity of the situation, and the unpleasant things that may need to be done to solve it. Although her violent and overprotective behavior throughout most of the play cannot exactly be called sane.
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.
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.
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.
Stay in the Kitchen: This is the Baker's attitude in the beginning of the first act, but he gets over it.
Stepford Smiler: Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters at the start of Act 2. They're blinded and lame and they're still insisting that they're happy as long as Cinderella is happy.
Survivor Guilt: The surviving characters at the end of the show. Especially The Baker.
The Unintelligible: Rapunzel only has a few scenes where she actually talks. The rest of the show, she expresses her feelings by "humming a lighthearted air" and screaming. Somewhat lampshaded by her prince. After the reprise of "Agony," Rapunzel, out of nowhere, lets out an enormous scream. The prince doesn't look the slightest bit shocked and says "Rapunzel," in deadpan.
Unnamed Parent: Half the cast — The Baker and his Wife, Jack's Mother, Cinderella's Mother and Father, The Mysterious Man.
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.
Act Two is going great, everyone's "So happy" — until the Giantess enters.
There is a very minor Wham Line near the beginning; 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.
What Happened to the Cow? It probably died ofindigestion. 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.
Also 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. Which begs the question of all those beans the Witch throws around in "Last Midnight". Are we sure all of them were picked up? What if another stalk sprouts?
Actually, the Witch does address that issue in the song: "Plant them and they soar / Here, you want some more? / Listen to the roar... / Giants by the score-! / Oh well, you can blame another witch."
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
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.
You Are Not Alone: "No One" is, after all. Should be noted they acknowledge even the "bad guys" are not alone.