Earlier this year Connie and I took a short vacation into central Ohio. One of the things that we stumbled upon and that created an unexpectedly enjoyable evening was a small town theater group’s production of Into the Woods. This past weekend we saw the Disney rendition in movie form.
The play this summer was done outdoors as part of an “al fresco” dinner theater in the back yard of an historic home. The meal was excellent, the production mediocre, but the entire experience was overall a fun evening out.
Into the Woods is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986, and premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987. Into the Woods won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason), in a year dominated by The Phantom of the Opera. (see wikipedia for more information)
The story fascinated me. I had never heard of the play (not much for theater back then with young kids and busy pastor’s life). I began to research the play and the themes within it.
At risk of boring you — here is some of the analysis (again from wikipedia):
In most productions of Into the Woods, including the original Broadway production, several parts are doubled. Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf, who share the characteristic of being unable to control their appetites, are played by the same actor. Similarly, the Narrator and the Mysterious Man, who share the characteristic of commenting on the story while avoiding any personal involvement or responsibility. Granny and Cinderella’s Mother, who are both matriarchal characters in the story, are also typically played by the same person, who also gives voice to the nurturing but later murderous Giant’s Wife.
The show covers multiple themes: growing up, parents and children, accepting responsibility, morality, and finally, wish fulfillment and its consequences. The Time Magazine reviewers wrote that the play’s “basic insight … is at heart, most fairy tales are about the loving yet embattled relationship between parents and children. Almost everything that goes wrong — which is to say, almost everything that can — arises from a failure of parental or filial duty, despite the best intentions.” Stephen Holden wrote that the themes of the show include parent-child relationships and the individual’s responsibility to the community. The witch isn’t just a scowling old hag, but a key symbol of moral ambivalence. James Lapine said that the most unpleasant person (the Witch) would have the truest things to say and the “nicer” people would be less honest. In the Witch’s words: “I’m not good; I’m not nice; I’m just right.”
The play and the recent movie (which is long but well done) leaves one with the idea that we all must go off into the woods (life) with what little guidance our parents can give us and have hope that it will all work out in the end……
In contrast the community of believers, those in the fellowship of disciples can go off into the woods knowing that there is genuine hope in a higher power. A true and living hope found in Christ that guides and corrects in spite of failed parental efforts and perhaps even through them.
The play says hope lies in the fact that we are all in this together and can help each other…. true to a point. The person of faith realizes that we find fellowship and encouragement from each other as we follow Christ together in a body governed by the head.
The plays tells us the wood is full of hard lessons that you learn from or die from. Faith reminds us that life is hard, but that all things work together for good for those who love God and called according to His purpose.
The play says parents are not perfect so you have to fend for yourself in many ways. Faith says we have a perfect Father in heaven who loves us and cares for us in the midst of our darkest and even rebellious moments.
Into the Woods….. into life. But not without hope. The woods is dark place, but we know that we have the light of world within us.
Into the Woods ….. into life. It is a place where shadows loom large, but in faith we remember that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we need not fear.
Into the Woods.