Moral Songs in INTO THE WOODS

A few thoughts on these little gems from the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods

My favourite “moral of the story” song in Into the Woods

The first time I watched Into the Woods, I immediately clicked with “Giants in the Sky”. I think because at that time in my life, I was really beginning to realize the fact that there was so much more beyond life in the town where I grew up and that I wanted it. Now that I’m a bit older, I hook onto the idea of my life now and then and what I’ve liked about both; the idea: ‘And you think of all of the things you’ve seen and you wish that you could live in between’. It’s always a little strange when you encounter old friends and you get the sense that they don’t realise that you’ve grown into a more complex person, ‘back again only different that before’.

So which “moral song” works most effectively within the scope of the narrative?

Perhaps “Moments in the Woods”, which is where one possibly becomes most aware of the inherent dilemma in the ‘and-or-in between’ continuum, I suppose, because the show has been planting the idea in the audience all the way through. I think it’s really effective because it seems that the Baker’s wife comes to a moment of profound personal enlightenment, with which the audience engages because she is one of the most sympathetic characters in the show. And in the midst of this “aha” moment, as Oprah would call it, she gets killed. The giant steps on her. And I think that is what begins to focus the show into the moral that “no-one is alone” in a way that is perhaps more profound than that latter song itself is in expressing the sentiment.

My least favourite “moral of the story” song in Into the Woods

I don’t actively dislike any of the moral songs, but I would say that “Children Will Listen” is probably my least favourite.

So which do you think is the least effective “moral of the story” within the scope of the narrative?

For me, it’s possibly “Children Will Listen” which tries to establish itself as as the über-moral of the play. But because it’s placed back to back with “No-One is Alone”, which seems to be the über-moral when it happens, and because there is indeed, a third ballad, “No More”, just prior to “No-One is Alone”, I don’t think the song is as effective as it could be. It’s almost a relief when the characters get back into the “Into the Woods” theme.

Which would you personally like to perform – in any context?

I’ll sing “Giants in the Sky” anytime, anywhere. I love that song.

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2 Responses to Moral Songs in INTO THE WOODS

  1. I really like “Children Will Listen”, but I think I prefer it out of context. I’d never really wondered why, but you could be right about the ballad overdose! “Moments in the Woods” is a great theatrical moment, extraordinarily effective.

    My favourite song in the show, though is “Agony”, which really doesn’t have a moral at all. Or rather, it has an ‘immoral’.

  2. qbusey says:

    I am glad there are other people out there who really look at the morals of the songs. I believe Into the Woods has a lot of them. Anyway. Nice blog dude.

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