Beans, Capes, Princes & Slippers - Uncovering the Fairy Tales of INTO THE WOODS!
Since opening on Broadway in 1987, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods has become a musical theatre staple, having been performed in venues big and small all over the world. Based on some of the most enduring fairy tales ever told, Into the Woods gives a musical voice to such beloved characters as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, and countless others, intertwining their stories into one theatrical masterpiece.
Though much of the musical is based on the stories that we heard at bedtime, many of the tales have been altered [spoiler alert!] to create a cohesive plot.
In anticipation of Disney's upcoming big screen version of the musical, which hits theaters on Christmas day, BroadwayWorld is traveling back "once upon a time" to take a closer look at the original fairy tale characters, and how some of their fates differ in Into the Woods!
The Original Tale: Cinderella, after the death of her mother, is forced to serve her new, selfish stepmother and stepsisters. But thanks to a wish granted by her fairy godmother, she's able to attend the prince's ball, where he falls in love with her at first sight. The catch -- her godmother's spell ends at midnight, and in her rush to leave, she trips on the steps of the palace and leaves her shoe behind. The prince goes on a kingdom-wide hunt for the owner of the (usually glass) slipper. In the Grimm brothers' version, Cinderella's stepsisters try to squeeze their feet into the shoe by cutting off their toes. But Cinderella appears, the slipper is a perfect fit, she marries the prince, and they live happily ever after.
Into the Woods Twist: Cinderella receives her gown and slippers ("as pure as gold") from the spirit of her mother instead of a fairy godmother. After Cinderella flees the King's Festival, she isn't sure she wants to be with him. And after their supposed "happy ending," Cinderella's Prince leaves her to hunt for another fling. In both versions, the stepsisters cut off their toes (because why would you leave out that awesome, gruesome detail?!), and at Cinderella's wedding, Florinda and Lucinda are blinded by birds. No rest for the wicked.
Key Players in the Musical: Cinderella (played Anna Kendrick), Cinderella's Mother (played by Joanna Riding), Cinderella's Prince (played by Chris Pine), Stepmother (played by Christine Baranski), Florinda (played by Tammy Blanchard), Lucinda (played by Lucy Punch)
Songs from the Storyline: "Cinderella at the Grave", "A Very Nice Prince", "Agony", "On the Steps of the Palace"
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
The Original Tale: Jack, a young boy, lives with his widowed mother and their scrawny milk cow. When the cow stops giving milk, Jack's mother has Jack take the cow to market to be sold. On the way, Jack meets an old man who offers him magic beans in exchange for the cow. Jack agrees, but when he comes home penniless, his mother throws the beans on the ground in anger and sends him to bed. Overnight, the beans grow into a giant beanstalk that leads to the home of a giant in the sky. Jack climbs up the stalk and steals treasures from the giant. But when the giant finds out, he comes down the stalk after Jack. Jack and his mother chop it down with an axe and the giant falls to his death, leaving them to live out the rest of their lives in riches.
Into the Woods Twist: One of the Witch's requests from the Baker and his wife is a "cow as white as milk." The couple got into their feud with the Witch years ago because the Baker's father stole beans from her garden -- these are the magic beans Jack receives from the Baker exchange for his cow. In the musical, Jack and Milky White are best friends. And instead of just one dead giant and a "happily ever after," another stalk grows into the sky, and the widow of the giant who fell to his death comes to take revenge on the kingdom. In their squabble to point fingers and avoid the giantess' wrath, Jack's mother ends up dead.
Songs from the Storyline: "I Guess This is Goodbye", "Giants in the Sky"
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
The Original Tale: Little Red Riding Hood heads through the woods to deliver food to her sickly grandmother. Her mother tells her to stay on the path, but when a wolf approaches her, she stupidly tells him where she's going. He responds that she should pick some wildflowers. While she's busy, the wolf stalks to grandmother's house, pretends to be Little Red, enters and swallows gran whole. He disguises himself as the grandmother and waits for Little Red, eventually swallowing her up when she arrives. In many versions, a lumberjack comes to the rescue and cuts open the sleeping wolf. Little Red and her grandmother come out unscathed, and the three pack the wolf's body full of stones to ensure his death upon waking.
Into the Woods Twist: Little Red buys bread from the Baker and eats half of it on the way to her grandmother's house. In the musical, not only is she stalked by the Wolf, but because her "cape as red as blood" is another of the Witch's "ingredients," the Baker and his wife are also on the hunt for her. The Baker acts in the lumberjack's role in this version, slaying the Wolf and rescuing Little Red and her grandmother from the Wolf's belly. Little Red rewards the hero with her cape. On her second trip to granny's, a wilier Little Red finds her house destroyed by the giantess and her grandmother killed.
Songs from the Storyline: "Hello, Little Girl", "I Know Things Now"
The Original Tale: A couple lives next door to a witch. When the wife gets pregnant, she starts to harbor a desperate craving for vegetables from the witch's walled-in garden. Her husband climbs over the wall to retrieve it but gets caught. The witch says the price of his life is their unborn child. When the baby is born, the witch takes her and shuts her away in a tower in the middle of the woods. Named Rapunzel, the girl has beautiful, long, golden hair that she drops down for the witch to climb up and see her. One day, a prince hears Rapunzel singing in the tower and learns the secret of her long locks. He calls for her to let down her hair, climbs up, the two fall in love and agree to run away and get married. The witch finds out when Rapunzel starts to show her pregnancy, so she cuts Rapunzel's hair and casts her out to fend for herself. Pretending to be her daughter, the witch tricks the prince into the tower with the severed hair and tells him he will never see Rapunzel again. The prince leaps from the tower in despair and is blinded by the thorns below. Rapunzel gives birth to twins out in the wilderness. After years of searching, the prince hears her singing and they are reunited, her tears falling into his eyes and taking away his blindness. They all return to the kingdom and live happily ever after.
Into the Woods Twist: It's the Baker's father who steals beans from the Witch's garden and must give up his child -- Rapunzel -- to her. But in this version, the Witch also curses his whole family, which leaves the Baker and his wife infertile. Rapunzel's "hair as yellow as corn" is one of the Witch's ingredients for the couple's spell to be able to conceive a child. Rapunzel is cast out after the Witch learns of her affiar, she gives birth to twins, etc., but after Rapunzel returns to the palace, she has a hysterical episode and flees into the woods, where she is trampled by the giantess. Rapunzel's prince follows her, but he when he runs into his brother (Cinderella's Prince) he reveals he's grown bored with their marriage.
Key Players in the Musical: Rapunzel (played by MacKenzie Mauzy), The Witch (played by Meryl Streep), Rapunzel's Prince (played by Billy Magnussen), The Baker (played by James Corden), The Baker's Wife (played by Emily Blunt)
Songs from the Storyline: "Our Little World", "Agony", "Stay with Me"