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Theatre / Into the Woods

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"I wish..."

Into the Woods is a 1987 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 up and face the consequences of their actions.

The show is one of Sondheim's most famous, alongside West Side Story, 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. 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. Another Broadway revival ran in 2022.

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.

Walt Disney Pictures released a film adaptation on Christmas Day, 2014, with Lapine writing the screenplay, and Rob Marshall (Chicago and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) 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.

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's wife 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.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: A minor one when it comes to the Rapunzel fairy tale. The witch climbs Rapunzel's hair to visit her in the tower. In this she's shown to have teleportation powers, meaning she has no real reason to climb up the hair to get into the tower.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: This is actually a plot point with Cinderella. Her original version was good to the point of being an Extreme Doormat. This Cinderella is aware of how her desire to be good means others walk all over her, and she is willing to defend herself as shown when the Baker's Wife tries to take one of her shoes. She then carelessly tosses a magic bean when the Baker's Wife offers it in exchange for one slipper. This has consequences in Act Two.
  • 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.
  • Afraid to Hold the Baby: In Act II, the Baker is awkward around his newborn son, who always cries when he holds him. After his wife dies, he feels so unfit to raise the baby alone that he almost abandons him, thinking his son will be better off without him.
  • Alternate Show Interpretation: The Fiasco Theatre production depicts the story as told by a bunch of people using whatever they have, playing multiple roles.
  • An Aesop:
    • Actions have consequences. You can't just go recklessly about doing whatever you want. This is illustrated by the songs 'No More' and 'Children Will Listen', where the characters lament that their own sins have inspired their children to imitate them in the worst way possible.
    • Parents have a huge responsibility to raise their children to be ready for the world. As the Witch says, children may not always obey, but they do listen, and if you teach them the wrong things, the world will crush them like a Giant's foot.
  • 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 a beginning and end, and the second act is life going on and not ending so neatly. Cinderella loves being married until she finds out her husband is cheating on her; the Baker and his wife prepare to expand their cottage only for her to die and the Baker worrying he won't be a good enough parent; Jack loses his mother and home, though in some stage versions it turns out his cow survived.
  • 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, demanding for it to even be tighter. 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. For 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 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. On the other hand, she causes exponentially more damage than Jack ever did and is nothing but callous about the casualties she leaves behind.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played to the extreme when they kill off the least likely character of all... the Narrator. This is to say nothing of all the other major characters who get killed unexpectedly, sometimes in rapid succession like Jack's mother, Rapunzel, Red's Grandmother, the Baker's Wife, and the Witch (maybe).
  • 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"?
  • Argument of Contradictions: The Baker and his wife get into an argument about the cow having run away from the wife. She tells him that she's been looking for the cow all night and he asks how she could have let it run away. She tells him that it could have just as easily run away from him.
    Baker: But she didn't!
    Wife: But she might have!
    Baker: But she didn't!
    Witch: (dramatically appearing in tree above) WHOOOOOO CARES???!!! THE COW IS GONE! GET IT BACK! GET IT BACK!!
  • 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.
  • At Least I Admit It: The Witch will freely admit that she's selfish and a jerk. She lambasts the other characters for blaming each other about how things went wrong, that everyone had a part to play for the subsequent disasters. What's more, as she points out, they can blame her but that doesn't solve their current problem.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Jack's mother is stern, and sometimes portrayed as somewhat abusive. But she panics and looks for him when he is gone and has an awesome Mama Bear moment when the giantess appears. Jack for his part is heartbroken that Jack's Mother forces him to sell Milky-White, but is heartbroken by the news of her death and wants to avenge her death.
  • 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, though justified since she was Eaten Alive.
    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. Though at least the Baker and his wife are content if not happy while quipping about who their son loves more...until the Giantess wrecks their bakery.
  • 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 actor who plays the Witch. For most of the first act, the Witch appears old and ugly, which is usually accomplished by having the actor wear a mask or facial prosthetics. At the end of the first act, the Witch's beauty is restored, allowing the mask/prosthetics to come off and let the actor showcase their natural beauty for the rest of the first act and the whole second act (and most of the people who've played the witch have been very attractive).
  • 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 Giant's wife, 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 giant's wife 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.
    Jack: 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 giant's wife 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..." appears at the beginning and the end.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The witch and Rapunzel's argument when the witch finds out she's invited a prince into her tower. Rapunzel points out several things: she can't be expected to stay in a tower forever when there's a world out there to see, and at least the prince gives her more than one visitor apart from her mother. The witch is a cynic who notes something else: the world isn't a big oyster but full of people, animals, and beings who will want to manipulate and hurt you, and princes are not just fine faces or gentlemen; she says Rapunzel doesn't have to hurry to grow up because she's still a kid. They're both right, though the witch crosses the line by exiling Rapunzel to a desert with little food or water and leaving her even more isolated. Act Two shows the consequences of Rapunzel running off with the prince: he's cheating on her while she's taking care of three twins and can't take care of her mental instability. The witch even laments that she hated being right after the giantess crushes Rapunzel, and in some productions her grandchildren.
  • 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).
    • The Wolf costume in the Hollywood Bowl production is the same one that was used in the original Broadway show, with the large penis removed.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In the original production, when the Baker happens upon Milky White in the middle of the woods after losing her earlier, he initially seems like he's going to lead her off by her rope, but after taking a look around to see if they are alone, he picks her up by the cow prop's handle on it's back and literally carries her offstage.
    • When the second act rolls around the characters get a little sick of the Narrator and set on him, eventually making him the first death of the second act.
    • The Witch (Bernadette Peters) also talks to one of the audience members when Rapunzel sings for her.
    • The final reprise of "Into The Woods" involves pointing at both fellow cast members and random audience members, while singing the lines "with me, you, her and him", underlining a major theme of the play: that everyone is in this together.
  • Broken Bird:
    • Little Red makes the mistake of listening to a strange wolf, and the Baker makes her cry by stealing her cape, though he returns it out of guilt. Then she's Eaten Alive and rescued from a wolf's stomach. In her next scene, she's extremely jittery from the trauma, pulling a knife on Jack when he compliments her wolfskin coat.
    • Cinderella goes to the festival just to have a good time. While the prince is interested in her, she's scared by the world of royalty. She spends a whole song talking about how her life at home isn't cushy but it's familiar and she has a role in it, and she might not belong in a palace where everyone is naturally beautiful and graceful. Deciding that the prince should at least get a chance to prove he wants a clumsy servant girl in that world, she leaves her shoe behind and runs off, exchanging the other heel for the loafers belonging to the Baker's wife. To a lesser extent, she's not immediately ladylike when trying on heels, defying Instant Expert. For most of Act 1, she's wearing sensible flats for cleaning and walking. When wearing golden slippers with a high heel, she's stumbling. It's partly why when the Baker's wife offers her flat loafers for running, she makes the trade.
    • 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...
  • 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.note 
    Cinderella: What?
    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.
  • Cheap Costume: A meta-example. Making a realistic-looking Milky White prop can be expensive, so many low-budget productions have her "played" by a stuffed animal, a balloon, a cardboard cutout on wheels or even just an actor in a white shirt, pants and nothing else. Many of these examples are documented at Low Budget Milky Whites.
  • 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.
    • The Baker finds an ear of corn, using it to compare Rapunzel's "silky" locks. In the climax of Act 1, the Old Man tells him to use the corn because it's a viable substitute when Rapunzel's hair fails to produce the desired potion.
    • 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?
  • Condescending Compassion: The Baker tells his wife that the woods are dangerous so she should stay at home. She points out that if the woods are dangerous, then they'll succeed collecting the ingredients together.
  • "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 Giant's wife. Seeing that the Narrator isn't Jack, the Giant's wife 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.
  • Counterpoint Duet: Red and The Wolf sound like they're singing two different songs in "Hello, Little Girl"
  • Crapsack World: The world becomes this during the second act due to the Giantess's interventuon. 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.
  • 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".
  • 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. The Stepmother later stooges off her daughters 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 Glare:
    • The Witch usually gets in a few before the curtain falls, most often when someone says something stupid. (Which is often.)
    • Played for Black Comedy when everyone gives one to the Narrator of all people when he won't shut up at a particularly bad time.
  • 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.
  • Died During Production: In-Universe. The characters freak out after the narrator is killed as he was "the only one who knew how the story went."
  • Dies Wide Open: Jack's Mother, in the original Broadway production.
  • 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...")
  • Discard and Draw: When the Witch drinks the potion to return her youth and beauty, she finds that she loses her power over others, meaning she's basically been rendered a normal human. This bites everyone in the ass when the Giantess attacks and the Witch doesn't have a way to use spells that might have been able to repel her.
  • Disorganized Outline Speech: In the "Your Fault" number, the character's arguments get increasingly confused as the song goes on:
    Jack: But without any beanstalk,
    Then what's queer
    Is how did the second Giant get down here
    In the first place?
    Second place...
  • 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).
  • Distinction Without a Difference: 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.
  • 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.
    • 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. The movie does this as well.
  • 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.
  • Dwindling Party: As of Act II, characters either die or leave the story until the epilogue. Cinderella's family flees to go hide (and possibly die of starvation), Rapunzel is killed by the giantess, her Prince leaves soon after for Snow White, Jack's mother is killed by the Steward, the Baker's Wife is also killed by the giantess, the Witch leaves the group, and Cinderella's Prince leaves her as well. By the end, only the Baker, Cinderella, Jack, and Little Red are left as the main cast.
  • 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."
  • The Elites Jump Ship: In Act 2, after the giantess has set upon their castle, the royal family, along with Cinderella's stepfamily, flees the kingdom instead of staying to fight. The finale hints that their fate was, well, not pretty.
    Stepmother: When going to hide, know how to get there.
    Cinderella's Father: And how to get back.
    Florinda & Lucinda: And eat first.
  • 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 Cinderella's stepsisters Florinda and Lucinda note  are given names. Everyone else is just The Baker, The Witch, etc.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • The Witch hesitates about sacrificing Jack to the Giantess at first. He did help with the potion that restored her youth. Then Rapunzel dies, and the Witch considers it a form of justice to deliver him to the Giantess.
    • Rapunzel's prince has been attempting to awaken another princess (Snow White) while looking for her in the woods. When they reunite, however, he is genuinely happy to see her and tries to stop her from running into the Giantess's path. Just because he's unfaithful doesn't mean he wants her dead. He fails and walks away horrified and grieving.
    • The survivors briefly turn on each other when the Baker learns his wife is dead and Cinderella is processing the possibility that her husband is cheating on her. When the witch suggests they hand in Jack, however, everyone gives a Big "NO!". The Witch even seems to respect that, though telling them they're "nice" rather than good. When the Baker overcomes his Heroic BSoD, he agrees that the four of them can come up with a plan that saves Jack and stops the Giantess.
  • 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.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • At the beginning of Act Two, the witch, the Baker and the Baker's wife discuss what could have destroyed their homes. The witch refutes bears (sweet and don't have forty-foot feet), dragons (scorchers and no sign of flames), manticores (imaginary), griffins (extinct), and then the Baker says "Giants." Just as she's about to refute it, the witch stops talking. There's a beat, and she whispers, "Possible. Very possible." As the narrator puts it, "More than possible."
    • Done musically with Cinderella in "Your Fault", when the Baker points out that she's the only one who could possibly know what happened to the second bean.
    Cinderella: You mean that old bean
    That your wife...oh dear...
    But I never knew and so I threw-
    Well don't look here!
  • 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 Giant's wife.
  • Fairy Tale Free-for-All: The story weaves Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel together with an original story about a baker and his wife who cannot conceive a child. While of the "intersecting tales" type, most of the known parts of the stories happen offstage; what the audience sees is the interaction between the characters.
  • Family of Choice: In the end, the Baker, Jack, Cinderella and Little Red all mend their broken family bonds with each other.
  • 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.
  • 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 because they are now cheating on the wives they spent the first act trying to get.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The last lines of the 1st Act are "And happy ever after!", right after which the narrator adds "To be continued."
    • When the Baker's Wife and Cinderella meet after the latter has run away from the ball on the first night, during He's a Very Nice Prince, the Baker's Wife keeps asking Cinderella about the Prince to the point that she seems more interested in him than Cinderella is. Not only does this foreshadow that Cinderella might not truly be happy as the Prince's wife, it also foreshadows the Baker's Wife's eventual affair with him.
    • 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...
    • Most of the conversations between the Baker and the Mysterious Man before he's revealed to be the Baker's father:
      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.
  • 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.
  • Glass Slipper: Cinderella leaves one of her golden slippers stuck on the steps of the palace as a clue for her Prince, before swapping shoes with the Baker's Wife. Later Cinderella's Prince seeks the girl who fits the slipper, and the desperate stepsisters mutilate their feet in an attempt to make it fit. Cinderella succeeds and becomes his bride.
  • Good Counterpart: The old man to the Witch. He helps the Baker get some of the ingredients, while the witch bullies the baker and his Wife into grabbing them by any means necessary. It's revealed he's the Baker's Father and wanted to make up for abandoning him. In Act Two, he returns to encourage the Baker to not abandon his son, Cinderella, or the kids. This gives the courage to return and apologize to everyone. Meanwhile the Witch spends her last moments berating everyone before reactivating the curse on the magic beans.
  • 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. Both Little Red Riding Hood and the Witch outright state this in "I Know Things Now" ("And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good") and "Last Midnight" ("You're so nice... you're not good, you're not bad, you're just NICE"), respectively. It's part of what makes the Deconstruction of fairy tales so effective: in classic stories, it's the nice characters who are viewed universally as good. But the heroes of Into the Woods do morally questionable things throughout the whole musical, proving that just because someone acts kind doesn't make them a good person. It also proves the opposite point: everyone assumes the Witch is wicked because of her nasty attitude, but in reality, she's probably the most justified in her actions throughout the whole work—she was saddled with a curse of ugliness and age that she knew next to nothing about (all she was told was not to let anything happen to her mother's special beans), loses her magical powers in exchange for recovering her original youth and beauty, has her home and garden destroyed by the Giantess, and ends up watching her adopted daughter Rapunzel die a horrible death. The Witch is also the one to force the heroes to admit that their self-centered wishes and lack of thought regarding those wishes' consequences are to blame for the horrible mess they made of things.
    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 giant's wife 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.
    • 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!
  • Happy Ending Override: Act One ends with all the leads getting their wishes. Even at the beginning of Act Two, while they aren't happy they are content. Then the Giantess destroys everyone's homes in her bid to kill Jack.
  • 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.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • At one point, Jack's Mother comments on Jack's relationship with Milky-White and how children can be "very queer with their animals". Also, during "Your Fault", one of Jack's lines is "what's queer, is how did the second giant get down here?" Both are obviously using queer as a synonym for 'strange'.
    • A lesser known one in the Witch's rap. She describes the Baker's father stealing her vegetables as "robbing me, raping me". Another definition of 'rape' is to cause destruction of a place - and she's using the word in that context.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: The Baker's Wife goes My God, What Have I Done? after the prince seduces her. After rationalizing it, she realizes that it's time to gather everyone and leave the woods because she needs to fix things with her family and rescue Jack. Cue the sound of a giantess's footsteps, and the Baker's wife desperately trying to avoid them. You then hear her scream and see her fall over in the OBC.
  • Here We Go Again!: The last two words of the musical come from Cinderella—after everything that has happened and facing an uncertain future, she sings the Arc Words "...I wish!" one final time, suggesting that another story is about to begin. Some productions make it a joke by having the other characters forcibly shut her up; others, including the filmed version of the original, are more serious.
  • 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. So no matter how bad things seem to be getting, there is hope.
    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 the Baker;
    • Rapunzel to the Witch (though ironically not Rapunzel's Prince);
    • Jack's Mother to Jack
    • And to a lesser extent, Granny to Little Red.
  • Imperfect Ritual: A baker and his wife must collect four ingredients for a witch: "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." Unfortunately, the hair from Rapunzel is unusable because the witch has already touched it, so the couple substitutes hair from an actual ear of corn, which surprisingly works.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: In the Hollywood Bowl production, the shadow of the Giantess resembles a much younger version of her actress, Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Innocent Soprano: The film's sopranos are fairytale heroines Cinderella and Rapunzel, who are beautiful young maidens who become affianced to they would both be straightforward ingenues were this not a Fractured Fairy Tale. Instead, Cinderella is snarky and determined, while Rapunzel is ditzy and innocent due to being locked in a tower her whole life, but she's also mentally unstable.
  • 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.
  • Irony: The 2002 revival has Little Red paying for her bread with a few coins. If the Baker had thought to take that into the woods, he and his wife could have bought the cow from Jack honestly, which would have led to fewer problems in Act Two.
  • 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 begins with "I Wish". The one in Act 2 is more of a Dark Reprise, though as the narrator points out, everyone is happy for now, just wistful.
    • 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 Baker says this trope word-for-word to the Steward and Cinderella's Family after they ignored his warning about the second Giant and the castle is destroyed.
    • 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, dying in front of him, 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 Giant's wife off more, instead of feeling guilt for causing the whole mess in the first place.
  • Knight Templar Parent: The Witch towards Rapunzel, keeping her locked in a tower her whole life to protect her from the outside world. The second she catches her with a prince, she blinds him and banishes Rapunzel.
  • Large Ham:
    • 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.
    • The Witch is often played like this (particularly by Bernadette Peters), though it depends on the actress.
  • 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 she has.
  • Last Request: Jack's Mother, right before dying, demands that the Baker protect Jack from the giantess. Though the Baker does briefly consider giving him to the Giantess after his wife dies, he ends up protecting him to the best of his ability.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: The Baker and his wife want a child, but are magically cursed with infertility. Act 1 revolves around the quest they must complete before the Witch will lift the curse. (They have a baby in Act 2.)
  • Leitmotif: A short musical theme, heard when Jack gives the beans to the Baker, finds its way into several of the songs (and comprises Rapunzel's "lighthearted air"), and is the entire basis for the Witch's "Stay With Me".
    • The melody of "the king is giving a festival" becomes a brassy fanfare associated with Cinderella's prince.
    • The notes that Cinderella sings to her bird friends ("birds in the sky...sift through the ashes") are played at the start of Act II when the birds alert her to trouble at her mother's grave, them morph into a charging military fanfare when the birds blind the giant near the end of the play.
    • The rising melody heard in Agony ("sensitive, clever, well-mannered, considerate, passionate, charming...") could be thought of as the "romantic ideal" leitmotif, appearing (1) in the full version of "A Very Nice Prince" when the Baker's Wife asks Cinderella whether the eponymous royal exhibits those qualities ("Is he everything you ever wanted?"), (2) in "Agony" as the Prince extols his own attributes ("You are everything maidens could wish for!"), (3) during "It Takes Two" when the Baker's Wife tells her husband how he has changed for the better in the woods, and (4) during "Agony (Reprise)" when the Princes salute "the tasks un-achievable, mountains un-scalable, if it's conceivable, but unavailable..." Interestingly, appearance (4) is the only one in Act II, during which the Baker's Wife loses much of her romantic idealism (or naiveté), but the Princes do not change their ways or mindset.
    • The notes of Cinderella's wish during the prologue ("shiver and quiver little tree; silver and gold rain down on me") later become the basis of the song "So Happy," which is, of course, all about having wishes fulfilled.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Narrator. Unusual for this trope, this backfires on him spectacularly when the characters decide they don't like how he's telling the story, and have him killed.
    Witch: "You wanted to get rid of him, too."
  • 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, 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. He gets it back his Father returns to give him a pep talk.
  • 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".
  • Minor Character, Major Song: The Wolf sings most of "Hello, Little Girl", a song about how he hungers for Little Red Riding Hood.
  • Misery Poker: In "Agony," Prince Charming and Rapunzel's prince over whose agony is worse when it comes to their troubles with their maidens.
    Rapunzel's Prince: Agony! / Far more painful than yours / When you know she would go with you / If there only were doors.
  • 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.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The final lines of "No One is Alone" are usually cut off by the arrival of the Giant's wife. Soundtracks typically keep the lines intact, though.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Rapunzel summed it up best.
      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: (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 a good chunk of details that were in the various editions of the Brothers Grimm versions. Among them, the three balls, pitch on the stairs, the slippers being gold, pouring stones into the wolf's stomach, the birds pecking out the step sisters eyes, and the cutting off of their feet.
    • They also go for the revised second version of how the Witch finds out about the Prince. However, it does still keep that Rapunzel gets pregnant. In their original publishing, they had kept that she reveals she is pregnant naively.
    • A lot of those are also 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.
    • About the only gag that really can't be said was from the Grimm's versions is the sexual metaphor in the Little Red Riding Hood story. The Grimms didn't keep that element. It's been pulled from earlier variations.
    • 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.
  • Nameless Narrative: A relative example. All characters who had names in the original fairy tales retain their names, but all those who did not (or are original) have titles like The Baker, The Baker's Wife, The Witch, Jack's Mother, etc.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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." Additionally, when his father stole the beans from the Witch, something happened that caused lightning to flash. The Witch never elaborates what it was and dismisses it as "another story".
  • Ode to Apathy: In "No More", the Baker has fallen into a deep despair after the death of his wife and sings about how tired he is of feeling anything and how much he wishes he could just turn himself off.
  • Ode to Food: "Hello, Little Girl" is a song sung by the wolf to Little Red Riding Hood about trying to convince her to go off the path before safely and efficiently reaching Grandma's house. At the same time, he makes comments about wanting to eat both of them.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Man: The Narrator, by virtue of not actually being in the story. At first. Within the story itself, the Witch. Yes, the Large Ham sorceress who kidnapped a young girl is the character with the most common sense. This explains a lot about how things go so Off the Rails later.
  • 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:
    • As in the original fairy tale, the Wolf almost completely fools Little Red Riding Hood by dressing up in her Granny's clothes.
    • 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. She also returns Milky-White to Jack after the cow produces the potion she desired.
    • The Giantess says she'll leave the woods alone if they give her Jack to answer for his actions. When the cast tries to trick her, she goes on a rampage.
    • In the 2002 revival, the Witch considers taking the Baker's son since his wife died, her Rapunzel died, and she wants a Replacement Goldfish. She can't do it, however, and returns the baby before committing suicide.
  • Platonic Co-Parenting: The show ends with the Baker agreeing to adopt Red and Jack, and Cinderella offering to move in so she can help him take care of the house and children.
  • 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 Funny Moment.
    • In both of the outdoor productions, the magical harp that Jack steals from the Giant is portrayed as a sexy woman with a harp on her back. This gives Jack's line ("Mother, look! The most beautiful harp!") an entirely new meaning.
  • 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.
  • Postmodernism: 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...
  • Primp of Contempt: An interesting example, in that the characters being spiteful are being primped by the one they have spite towards. To prepare for the Prince's festival, Cinderella's stepsisters Florinda and Lucinda ask that she does their hair and fixes a tear in one of their dresses.
  • 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.
  • Punished with Ugly: The once-beautiful Witch was turned into an ugly old crone by her mother as punishment for losing the magic beans.
  • Quarreling Song: "Your Fault" from has all the fairy-tale characters arguing in a Patter Song.
    • "Our House".
  • Questionable Consent: The encounter between the Baker's wife and the Prince. The power dynamics at play prevent her from effectively refusing him. Also, he physically grabs her.
  • Rage Against the Author: They give the Narrator to the Giant's wife 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.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Cinderella as the princess. She hears the Baker out about a giant potentially being in the land, and promises to tell the Prince. Then she goes out in disguise when the Prince doesn't return and the birds tell her something terrible happened to her mothers' grave. Sadly, the reasonable part goes out the window afterward but returns when she comes up with a viable plan to kill the giantess: have the birds peck her eyes out as she's lured to tar, and have the boys whack her hard.
  • 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.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Subverted. In the 2002 revival, the Witch means to take the Baker's son to replace Rapunzel when it seems all hope is lost. She returns him unharmed because he would be another child to love and lose as he grows up and makes mistakes.
  • 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).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After encountering the giantess, the royal family (save for the princes and Cinderella) retreat to a neighboring kingdom. It's strongly implied at the end, that they got lost along the way and ultimately starved to death.
  • Sensational Staircase Sequence: "On The Steps of the Palace" from Into the Woods plays with this trope as Cinderella is trapped on the steps both metaphorically as she is indecisive if she should stay with the prince or flee, but also literally trapped to the steps as the price covered them with tar. So while it is a fast paced emotional song that could involve a lot of choreography going up and down the stairs, Cinderella cannot dance as her feet are stuck in place. Exactly how sensational or not the song ends up being depends on the production.
  • Sex Signals Death: 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's wife almost immediately afterward.
    • 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?
  • Shout-Out: To Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
  • Significant Double Casting: The roles that are usually double-cast are thematically similar:
    • The Big Bad Wolf and Cinderella's Prince are unable to control their appetites, whether in regards to eating or in regards to sex.
    • The Narrator and The Mysterious Man insist on commenting on the action without becoming involved.
    • On the other hand, Cinderella's Mother and Granny would like to be more proactive, but are each unable to, for separate reasons. The Giant is also often voiced by this actress, but that's less for thematic reasons and more because she's one of the few cast members not onstage during those scenes.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: This is the reason why The Witch planted the infertility curse on The Baker and his wife instead of The Baker's father who stole greens from her.
  • Small Start, Big Finish: "Last Midnight", the witch's Villainous Breakdown. The song begins with a level-headed tone while she rebukes the characters, but by the end she's shrieking and belting as a storm rages around her.
  • So Happy Together: The second act begins with contentedly singing "So Happy." Then things come literally crashing down.
  • 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, the Baker's reaction is this to Little Red's line, "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 was perfect! I had everything but beauty!", 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!"
    • The "First Midnight" and "Second Midnight" sequences have characters delivering a whole string of these.
      Florinda: Never wear mauve at a ball...
      Lucinda: Or pink...
      Stepmother: Or open your mouth...
  • 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).
  • Stopping the Blame Game: Inverted. The characters all sing the song "Your Fault" blaming each other, only for the Witch to put a sudden end it by interrupting it with the song "Last Midnight." She tells the group that if what they want is someone to blame, then they can give her the blame, so long as they give her the boy Jack to give to the Giant's Wife. When they balk at this, she calls them out for hypocrisy and then pulls a Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • 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.
  • To Be Continued: The Narrator says this at the very end of the first act. Word of God is that the line was added during tryouts because people kept leaving the theatre thinking the show was over.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Baker, Jack, Cinderella and Little Red.
  • 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.
  • Wacky Cravings: The whole story starts when the Baker’s mother craves vegetables while pregnant, leading his father to steal from The Witch.
  • 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.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: Played for Drama. In the 2002 revival, the witch considers taking the Baker's son and raise as her own, after Rapunzel and her grandchildren die. She can't do it, while looking at the baby with wistfulness, regret, and cynicism. The witch kisses him, returns him to the Baker unharmed, and commits suicide by tossing the magic beans again. Part of her knew it wouldn't be the same.
  • 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.
    • When The Baker asks where his wife is, The Witch coldly replies, “She’s dead.”
  • Wham Shot:
    • Act One is ending happily in the OBC recording. Everyone got their wishes except the minor antagonists...wait, why is a beanstalk growing in the background?
    • Act Two is going great, everyone's "So happy" — until the Giantess enters.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Both Milky-White and the hen disappear after the beginning of Act 2. However, both of them might have died when the giantess crushed Jack's house.
      • Milky White is indicated to survive in the 2022 Broadway revival, though likely so the puppeteer can get a curtain call.
    • Rapunzel's twin babies. In some productions, they die with their mother under the foot of the Giant's wife, while in both outdoor productions they're revealed to have withered away from neglect. In case you didn't get that Act II was going to be rough...
      • The 2022 Broadway revival has a more hopeful one where Rapunzel's Prince is indicated to be happily raising the twins after Rapunzel's death.
    • 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. The Baker at least has an excuse that he's more concerned about breaking the curse.
    • 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, 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.
  • What You Are in the Dark: It comes up a few times.
    • The Baker's wife insists on coming to collect the ingredients. She also tells a bald-faced lie (which ends up being an Accidental Truth) that Jack's cow is worth five magic beans. When the Baker points out they scammed a child, she says "the end justifies the beans" because they need the cow to break the witch's curse. It becomes moot later when Jack and his mother become rich due to what he steals from the giant and the witch explains that she actually needs the cow to eat the other ingredients so as to produce the potion. The witch returns Milky White to Jack when the potion is made.
    • The Baker absolutely refuses to steal Red's cloak, and even when he actually takes it, he returns it to her on seeing that she's crying.
    • Cinderella has a chance to stay with her prince when he spreads tar on the palace steps, or she can run home, back to her mundane life of chores. She admits that he must care but doesn't know if she's fit for royal life; instead, she leaves one of her golden slippers as a clue for him to find. Later, she finds out that her prince had a dalliance with the Baker's wife thanks to the Birds, but says that she doesn't care. For one, the woman is dead, and the baker has been hurt enough already. For another, she had a suspicion given he hadn't returned from the woods.
    • In Act Two, Rapunzel's prince — who is conspiring to cheat on her — runs to rescue her from the Giantess's footsteps. He fails.
    • Little Red appears in Act Two to announce she's moving in with her Granny. The Baker doesn't want to tell her that a giant is rampaging through the woods, but he says he's escorting her to her grandmother's so she will arrive safety. His wife insists on coming as well.
    • When the Baker's wife and the Prince have a romantic encounter in the woods, he tells her that "Right and wrong don't matter in the woods. Only feelings." After the deed goes down, she spends the rest of the song wrestling with her conscience before finally rationalizing it.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • You Fool!: In both the theatrical and film versions, the Witch calls the Baker a fool when he tries to hand her the cape as red as blood, saying she can't touch it.
  • 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 omits the entire second act.

"And happy ever after!"
"I wish..."


Video Example(s):


"Hello Little Girl"

The Wolf sings about his "hunger" for Red Riding Hood.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainSong

Media sources: