Into the Woods
This musical turns Grimm's Fairy Tales inside out, showing that actions have consequences, and there can be no happily ever after if one's goals are attained through amoral means. The ends do not, as suggested by one character in the first act "justify the beans." They learn that other people have families and feelings, and that their success should not come at the expense of others.
- 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.
A secondary theme, explored thru the relationship of the Witch (ironically the only character with strong moral values) and her 'daughter' Rapunzle, taken from her family to prevent her growing up in an amoral environment, is that of parents and children. The Witch's sole mistake in the story is that she shields Rapunzel so thoroughly from the world, that when she is finally exposed to it, it kills her. She learns in the end, that children should be taught by example, rather than solely by authoritarian rules which are never explained to them, so that they have the ability to defend their own morals once they grow up and enter the world.
- Careful the things you say,
- Children will listen.
- Careful the things you do,
- Children will see and learn.
- Children may not obey,
- But children will listen.
- Children will look to you
- For which way to turn,
- To learn how to be.
- Careful before you say,
- "Listen to me."
- Children will listen.
During Act 1, the play tells the story of a Baker, and his wife, who want desperately to have a child, but have been unable to conceive because of a curse placed on the Baker's family by a neighboring witch, when he was a toddler, for his father's transgression of stealing from her garden to feed his pregnant wife. In response to his actions the witch took the baby, Rapunzel, and keeps her locked in a high tower, doting on her and protecting her from the evils and lax morals of the outside world.
In order to have a child, the Baker is charged to find four items before midnight in three days. He is to find: the cow as white as milk, the slipper as pure as gold, the cape as red as blood and the hair as yellow as corn. This leads him, and his wife who vows to help him as she is equally invested in having a child, to encounters with the characters from Grimm's Fairy Tales.
The Baker and his wife obtain the cow as white as milk from Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk, through deceitful intent with regards to the nature of the beans the baker found in the pocket of his father's old coat(although their claims, unbeknownst to them, are true, as these beans were stolen from the witch's garden.) Jack later climbs the beanstalk, as in his Fairly Tale, and steals from the giants, later killing the male giant by chopping down the beanstalk.
The Baker then attempts to attain, through theft, the cape as red as blood from Little Red Ridding Hood, but repents at her tears. He later re-enters her story to cut her and her grandmother from the wolf's stomach and she willingly gives him the cape in gratitude, fashions a new cape of wolf-skin and begins carrying a large knife and behaving in a violent manner.
Meanwhile the Baker's Wife has a series of encounters with Cinderella as the latter flees the kingdom ball each night to avoid the advances of the Prince. She wanted to go to the ball quite badly, but had no intention of romantic relations with the prince, and is unsure what to do about her situation. When on the last night, Cinderella arrives with only one shoe, the Baker's Wife trades the shoes off her feet for the single golden slipper.
Shortly after the Baker's wife pulls some hair as yellow as corn from Rapunzel's head, by claiming to be her prince, the witch returns home to find out that Rapunzel has been seeing a Prince behind her back, and cuts off the girl's long hair both as a punishment, and a means to prevent the prince any further access to her daughter.
With the four items, the Baker and his Wife, confront the Witch, who uses the items to break not only the curse on the Baker and his Wife, but also the curse on herself which had made her old and ugly. Unfortunately in so doing she looses all of her magical abilities, and when Rapunzel runs away with her prince, wanting to be kept in a tower no more, she is powerless to stop her.
At the end of Act One, the characters rejoice in the happy ever after which they have attained by questionable means. The Baker and his Wife engaged in deceit, Jack in theft, Cinderella in vanity, Rapunzel in parental disobedience, and Little Red Ridding Hood in violence.
Act two introduces consequences to their actions, as the wife of the giant Jack killed comes down a second beanstalk, (sprung from the bean the Baker's Wife tried, unsuccessfully to trade to Cinderella for her shoe) and demands Jack's death as justice for his crimes. Cinderella and Rapunzel's princes are no help, as they are off trying to wake and win the affections of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Little Red's mother and Grandmother are collateral damage, falling underfoot of the Giant, while the Baker and his wife have an unruly child who refuses to stop crying.
The characters, with the exception of the Witch who thinks Jack should simply be handed over to face the consequences of his actions, and Rapunzel who has lost all mental coherence as a result of being exposed to the world so late and then left without her prince, band together to protect Jack and kill the Giantess. Their first action however, is counterproductive. They deny the narrator, (arguably the God figure of their fairy tale world,) and give him to the Giantess saying he is Jack. This tactic fails and they find themselves lost and without direction. Rapunzel is lost to the Giant, as is the Baker's Wife, and the Prince's Steward strikes Jack's mother to quiet her, killing her.
Only after the Witch by tossing away another handful of beans and incurring the curse upon herself again, making herself ugly and old but regaining her power, demonstrates that their problems were caused by their short sighted behavior in act one, do they finally learn their lesson and find a way to defeat the Giantess, who herself is foiled by the fact that she seeks, not justice as she has claimed, but vengeance.