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 — 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 upand 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 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 will release 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 will be Lighter and Softer than the original (linked article contains spoilers for both versions).Now has a character sheet.
Into the Woods provides examples of the following tropes:
Nice is different than good, and the good people aren't always the ones you think.
Life is hard, but rather than run away, you have to grow up and deal with it.
All for Nothing: The second act does this to the first act. Especially for the Baker.
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'snotfunny when Florinda slaps Cinderella for it a second later.
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 happened, listing off Dragons, Giants, Thunder, and Manticores. The Witch disdainfully comments that Manticores aren't real.
Bittersweet Ending: Jack, Red Ridinghood, Cinderella, the Baker, and his child are alive. But 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 Prince seemed to learn a lesson. The Witch is dead and much of the country has been destroyed by the giantess stomping around.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 discretion.
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.
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.
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.
"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 her behavior is not portrayed as making her a horrible person, and the Princes' behavior is not portrayed as being reasonable or excusable.
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.
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 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 are given names. Everyone else is just The Baker, The Witch, etc.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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 their 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.)
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! 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 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.
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.
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.
Survivor Guilt: The surviving characters at the end of the show. Especially The Baker.
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 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.
Rapunzel's Prince leaves the stage after Act 2's version of "Agony", and doesn't show up again.
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.