Into the Woods

Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Book: James Lapine

One of the most frequent images in folk literature is that of a character traveling through a dark forest. Noted child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim explains the symbolism of the woods in these fairy tales as "the place in which inner darkness is confronted and ... where uncertainty is resolved about who one is ... or who one wants to be." In Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine lead a conglomeration of new and old storybook characters on just such a journey of growth and self-discovery.

The initial concept for the show was for Lapine to devise an entirely original story, but as he worked on it, he decided that there were already so many existing fairy tales that his seemed arbitrary. Instead, he hit upon the notion of uniting numerous characters from familiar literature: Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Rapunzel.

Various moments in the show seem straight from some Disney movie, but unlike those cartoons which invariably sanitized many of the violent and brutal aspects of the classic fairy tales, Lapine and Sondheim reacquaint us with some of the crueler elements of these stories. The more gruesome moments in the show--like the blinding of Rapunzel's prince and Cinderella's stepsisters--are taken straight from the source material.

Into the Woods opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on November 5, 1987 and ran for 764 performances. The original cast included Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien and Tom Aldredge.

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