One of the most frequent images in folk literature is that
of a character traveling through a dark forest. Noted child psychologist
Bruno Bettelheim explains the symbolism of the woods in these
fairy tales as "the place in which inner darkness is confronted
and ... where uncertainty is resolved about who one is ... or
who one wants to be." In Into the Woods, Stephen
Sondheim and James Lapine lead a conglomeration of new and old
storybook characters on just such a journey of growth and self-discovery.
The initial concept for the show was for Lapine to devise
an entirely original story, but as he worked on it, he decided
that there were already so many existing fairy tales that his
seemed arbitrary. Instead, he hit upon the notion of uniting
numerous characters from familiar literature: Cinderella, Little
Red Ridinghood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Rapunzel.
Various moments in the show seem straight from some Disney
movie, but unlike those cartoons which invariably sanitized many
of the violent and brutal aspects of the classic fairy tales,
Lapine and Sondheim reacquaint us with some of the crueler elements
of these stories. The more gruesome moments in the show--like
the blinding of Rapunzel's prince and Cinderella's stepsisters--are
taken straight from the source material.
Into the Woods opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on
November 5, 1987 and ran for 764 performances. The original cast
included Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien and Tom