Into the Woods
Shortly into the New York run, the original cast made this excellent recording of the stage play for PBS. (I was there to see the play with the original cast. The marquee was draped with a giant pair of inflatable legs, for the dead giant.) I loved it, as so many people did. The play is about as audience-friendly and accessible as anything Sondheim did in his later career … which is to say, half a lark, and a second act that brings you down to Earth again. I am fortunate enough to own a LaserDisc of this performance.
The story mixes several fairy tales: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the beanstalk, Rapunzel, a witch, and a baker and his wife, whose quest for four magical items ties them all together. There are cameos by Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. What makes this story unique, though, is that the fairy tale ends with Act One. Act Two is what comes after happily ever after, and it’s mostly not happy. It is almost all singing, with Sondheim’s distinctive music and lyrics, and the extremely witty book by James Lapine.
Now we are just days away from the Rob Marshall/Disney film version of the musical. I wanted to see this stage version before the film, because there has been some hoo-hah about possible changes to make it more Disneyfied. I understand there have been some changes, but Sondheim signed off on all of them. We’ll see. I can hardly wait.