In January, Musical Cyberspace is going to work through a chain of musicals. This is how it works: each day I will discuss, in brief, a musical linked to the previous day’s musical by some kind of common ground. It follows then, that if you – dear reader – liked the previous day’s show, then you might enjoy the current day’s show. Comments, as alway, are welcome!
If you like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, then you might like Into the Woods.
Two musicals. Two farces. Two huge puzzles that respectively come together to form a satisfying picture in the end. That’s what A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Into the Woods have in common, along with scores by Stephen Sondheim. Into the Woods was Sondheim’s second show with James Lapine and it is probably his most accessible thanks to the assortment of popular fairy tale characters that appear throughout the show.
Into the Woods is the story of a Baker and his Wife who desperately wish have a child. To get one, they cut a deal with the Witch next door (who wishes to be young and beautiful again). She will lift the curse of infertility she placed on the Baker’s family (a punishment for the theft of her special beans by the Baker’s father) in return for the ingredients of a special potion: a cow as white as milk (the “pet” of Jack of beanstalk fame), a slipper as pure as gold (soon to be worn by Cinderella), a cape as red as blood (belonging to a Little Red Riding Hood) and some hair as yellow as corn (ostensibly that which is growing out of Rapunzel’s head – although there’s a catch here). Of course, all of those things are obtained and everyone’s stories continue through to the traditional happy endings, although that’s only Act I. In Act II, the consequences that everyone has to pay for their previous actions come home to roost and the woods becomes a place to be survived rather than merely encountered. “It Takes Two”, “Giants in the Sky”, “I Know Things Now”, “No-one is Alone” and the absolutely astounding “Your Fault” are all highlights in a score that offers many gems.
Into the Woods is musical that takes fairy tales and puts something of a Woody Allen spin on them as they quest their way through the woods with all the trappings of farce we saw in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: a number of puns, many sexual; a non-stop flurry of entrances and exits; mistaken identity in the shape of a very Mysterious Man; and so on. We are fortunate to have recordings of as yet unmatched original Broadway cast in a performance of the original production and a recent recording of a site specific revival in Regent’s Park in London, the cast of which takes second place. Trailing behind are self-conscious performances of the original, panto-influenced London production and the lamentably cast Broadway revival from 2002. Of course, the current buzz about the show deals mainly with the upcoming film version which is to be directed by Rob Marshall, who directed the fantastic Chicago before bombing with his film adaptation of Nine. Let’s hope he resists his trademark movie musical concept, in which musical numbers are largely in the heads of the characters rather than a heightened extension of their natural expression for this one.
So, now it’s time to share your thoughts on Into the Woods. And what shows would you suggest to fans of this show? See which one we’ll feature here tomorrow…