One of the best things about working at Oxford University Press is finding older books you didn’t know about. A couple of days ago I came across The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: The Western Fairy Tale Tradition from Medieval to Modern, edited by Jack Zipes. I decided to put the volume to the test. Would it have the modern musical interpretation of fairy tales? It did! Below is the entry about one of my favorite shows, Into the Woods.
Into the Woods, A 1987 Broadway musical by James Lapine (libretto) and Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) that utilized familar and original fairy tales. In a storybook setting, various characters set off into the woods with particular tasks. *Jack goes to sell the family cow, *Little Red Riding Hood travels to see her grandmother, *Cinderella steals away to visit the grave of her mother and, in an original subplot, a baker and his wife search for specific items demanded by a witch that has rendered the couple childless. The same witch holds her daughter *Rapunzel a prisoner in a tower. Once in the forest, Jack obtains the magic beans that allow him to climb the beanstalk to kill the giant. Cinderella goes to the festival and meets her Prince while Little Red outwits the wolf and he is killed, and Rapunzel is rescued by her Prince. The first act ends with everyone singing ‘Happily Ever After’, but in the second act the characters must face up to the responsibilities brought on by their earlier actions. The giant’s wife seeks revenge, killing Red’s grandmother, and terrorizing the countryside. The baker’s wife has a brief affair with Cinderella’s shallow Prince, and the disenchanted Rapunzel runs off and is trampled by the giant. The survivors eventually kill the female giant and the musical ends on a bittersweet note with parents learning about the power of their words on their offspring and children finding that ‘No One Is Alone’ in this world.