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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Into the Woods

Of all the plays and musicals I've seen, Into the Woods remains one of my all-time favorites. It's a threading together of a few different fairy tales—Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood primarily although a few others get mixed in.

Since everyone knows the fairy tales, I won't go into too much detail about the play. All the different fairy tale people run into each other in the woods. The cow Jack needs to sell? He trades it to the baker for magic beans. The baker's wife ends up with Cinderella's slipper. And Rapunzel's prince and Cinderella's prince try to out-do each other with how difficult it is to woo their woman.

While the first half is all lighthearted and humorous, the second act is considerably darker. This gets into what happens after happily ever after. I have mixed emotions about the last half of the play. On the one hand, I can appreciate skewering the fairy tales, but on the other hand, I like happy endings. I did love the first act, though, without reserve.

The music and lyrics are outstanding. I love Agony, both versions of it with the two princes trying to top each other on how tough they have it. I also love the The Last Midnight when the witch talks about finding someone to blame being more important to the humans than dealing with the giantess. And I Know Things Now sung by Red Riding Hood who isn't quite as naive as she was before meeting the wolf. "Isn't it nice to know a lot...and a little bit not."

Into the Woods was recorded with the Broadway cast and is available on DVD, which means if you're interested, you can rent it/buy it and not need to wait for the play to be staged in your city. I like the DVD version, but there's always energy to watching a live performance that isn't captured on disk.

Highly recommended