On February 16th I went to see my favorite musical in the entire world: Into the Woods! I saw Into the Woods Jr. several years ago, which is only the first half of the musical, and last year I rediscovered it and watched the entire thing online. That was when I learned that half my favorite characters die in the second act (ironic, right?). I own the London Cast Recording soundtrack and listen to it regularly. I know most of the songs by heart and go around the house singing them.
When I heard the theater group in my dad's hometown was putting it on, I came very close to freaking out and asked off work to make sure that I could go.
It was amazing. Even more so than any other performance of Into the Woods, I'd venture to say, because this particular acting group takes no shortcuts and demands performance quality like nobody else. It was also cool that one of the girl's I know played the role I would want if I were ever to be in it: Jack's mother, from Jack and the Beanstalk! She's a no-nonsense lady who overreacts to a lot of things, and in the second act she gets to die dramatically. Fabulous.
Why I Love It:
I love this musical for a lot of reasons. The first and foremost reason is probably because it is based on all my favorite fairy tales. Other reasons include: The music is fantastic, the characters are lovable, the plot is creative and unexpected, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and it teaches you many valuable lessons, including: "Wishes come true, not free."
I have a lot of favorite characters from this musical: Rapunzel (of course), the Baker and his Wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, Cinderella, and The Mysterious Old Man (yep, that's his name).
Why I Don't Love It:
Of course, there are also elements to it I don't like. The Baker's Wife insists that "The ends justify the means." Three of the characters are unfaithful to their spouses in the second act. Parts of it suggest that there is no such thing as absolute truth and everyone must decide what is right or wrong for themselves, which I disagree with.
But without these elements, the musical might seem idealistic and difficult to relate to. The characters are profoundly flawed; they are dishonest, cowardly, selfish, manipulative, unfaithful, and vengeful. But they are also kind, generous, loyal, brave, adventurous and passionate. They choose to be both good and bad, and suffer the consequences of their choices.
I love the entire first act. It is just perfectly precious in every way. But to name a favorite scene...probably when to Baker steals Little Red Riding Hood's cloak and she screams until he gives it back. So funny. I also love the Witch...she's pretty fabulous and has some great one-liners.
The song Giants in the Sky is probably my favorite in Act I, and I also love I Know Things Now.
After a giant storms through the kingdom and destroys everything, the Baker and his Wife are trying to get Little Red Riding Hood safely home. She says, "Mother said never to stray from the path!" The Baker replies, "The path has strayed from you,"
There is one line in which the witch (the villain) grows angry with the remaining characters and tells them, "You're so nice! You're not good, you're not bad, you're just NICE!" I like this line because I feel like it applies to me and makes me want to be better. Sometimes I'm not good or even bad, I'm just nice. And as Little Red Riding Hood says, "Nice is different than good!"
After that, the two songs No More and No One Is Alone are just so achingly beautiful. The ending is really bittersweet, but I'm always left with a sense that the characters who survived have learned from all the terrible things that happened and will do better from then on.
On our drive home, my dad and I had a long discussion about the musical, particularly the moral aspects of it. We agreed that if there hadn't been things in it that were wrong, we wouldn't understand how good some of the elements of it are, or be able to discuss so much about it.
This is and will probably always be my favorite musical, and it was a total treat to see it performed live by some of my favorite actors and actresses!