Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, January 11, 2008

If Sweeney Todd has stirred up your soul for Sondheim,go Into The Woods for a happy ever after

With all of the attention given to Sweeney Todd recently(and rightly so),this seems like a good time to share my fondness for one of Stephen Sondheim's best known and beloved musicals,Into The Woods. I first became enchanted with this show after watching a PBS broadcast of it with the original Broadway cast of Bernadette Peters,Joanna Gleason and Chip Zien.

I've always been a fan of fairytales and intrigued by their overtly dark first versions,which Into The Woods refuses to shy away from. Here,Cinderella's stepsisters get their eyes pecked out after the wedding(and one loses a big toe while trying on the glass slipper)and Little Red Riding Hood has to be cut out of the Big Bad Wolf's belly,along with her grandmother,to be saved.

The traditional fairy tale characters are joined in this story by a Narrator and a new set of folks;a Baker and his Wife who desperately want to have a child but find out the magical reasons why they can't,courtesy of their neighbor,The Witch. She has a taste for vengeance and for greens:

The Witch gives them a chance to undo her curse,by finding several items to make a special potion. This quest has the couple encounter Cinderella to and from her times at the ball,Jack discovering his Beanstalk and Red Riding Hood,who really needs Benson and Stabler from SVU to escort her to her grandmother's house:

By the end of the first half,everyone seems to have found what they were looking for and are ready for their happily ever after, However,many realize that what they thought they wanted didn't really fulfill them or had unforeseen consequences. Things get even more off kilter when an angry giantess invades the land,stomping around to avenger her husband's death and creating more victims in her wake:

My favorite character in the show is The Witch,who is the most selfish but yet the most honest about her failings(as well as those of others). She is also the loneliest person in the piece,which does make you understand why she insisted upon keeping Rapunzel all to herself for so long,even if that wasn't exactly a Dr. Spock recommended method of child rearing:

Into The Woods is available on DVD and a treasured gem in my video library. There's been talk over the years of making a film adaptation of ITW and maybe with the success of Sweeney Todd,it will finally happen one day. This is one musical fantasy that delivers some home truths and sparkles with true inspiration,not just a cheesy gimmick to drag folks into theaters and sell them some tie-in merchandise. Like any good tale,it's straight from the heart:

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