Monday, April 23, 2007

Musical Moments--Into the Woods

For this week's Musical Moment's I've chosen "Into the Woods" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but this show has a lot to say, particularly now. It is the favorite Sondheim musical of many and the most often produced having, already enjoyed a successful revival just 15 years after it premiered on Broadway in 1987. One of the things that makes "Into the Woods" appeal to so many is that the play is written as an allegory for any of society's ills. This is precisely the reason I chose it this week. I think you'll find that "Into the Woods" has wisdom, relevance and answers to offer us in a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad.

The play employs the use of traditional fairy tale characters, each with his own wish, who set out in pursuit of those wishes; Cinderella to go the Ball, Red Riding Hood to Grandmother's house, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and an invented fairy tale of the Baker and his Wife who wish to have a child. In order to make each of these wishes come true, the characters must journey "into the woods" to achieve them. This leads each to interact with characters from other tales and different story lines. Despite the confusion and with each other's help, by the end of the first act each character has reached his or her own desired Happy Ever After ending.

In the opening of the second act we find our familiar characters enjoying the happiness that their wishes have brought. It's then that an angry giant, from Jack's pursuit of the goose that lays golden eggs, descends upon the woods and its inhabitants wreaking havoc, causing mayhem and leaving a path of death and destruction. The people of the woods are traumatized and turn to the Royal family for help who have fled the woods themselves offering no help to their subjects. Following this, the giant strikes again this time killing the Baker's Wife, a new mother of the child she so desperately wished for, making the loss all the more tragic. It's at this point the characters begin to assign blame, each pointing the finger at the other and his perceived selfishness. In the end, they come to the realization that they must all be mindful of their own wishes and understand that their actions come with consequence to others.

At the time it was written in the late 80s, "Into the Woods" might have been an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, today it could be terrorism, or a war that no one wants to fight. It could be Hurricane Katrina, or it could be a mad gunman in a society with lax gun laws and a mental healthcare system that has failed him who decides to kill 30 of his peers. In the clip I've chosen, Cinderella and the Baker try to make sense of their losses and the tragic situation to young Jack and Riding Hood so that they all may heal and learn from the experience. In the song "No One is Alone" they offer more than the sentiment that none of them is alone going through the tragedy, but also, no one is alone in society. That while we pursue each of our wishes, our actions inevitably affect others around us, sometimes for good but other times with tragic results. As you watch this scene, think of the conversations that parents might have had with their children last week following the Virginia Tech shootings.

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6 Comments:

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Donnie said...

A great post and a touching musical clip, Michael.

 
At 10:11 PM, Blogger Red7Eric said...

When I first saw INTO THE WOODS, I didn't get it. I thought it was a one-act, and was surprised that it had a Part Two. When I saw the second act (I was a baby-'mo), I was disappointed -- I didn't expect it to be so dark, and I wasn't at all pleased.

Now, of course, I *get* it, and believe (like you) that it's a masterpiece. However, someone still needs to explain the second act of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.

(Oy gevalt.)

 
At 10:42 PM, Blogger Andromeda said...

hey just stopping by to say hello. this is meander...now i am andromeda. come on by to my new blog anytime. good to see you.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Y | O | Y said...

The actor who playes the Baker looks really familiar...

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Gavin, the actor's name is Chip Zien, he does a lot of NY based TV like Law and Order, he was also in Falsettos on B'way.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Vinnie G. said...

This is one of my all time favorites. I love to pop the cd in for long road trips and just sing along. I do like the baker from the London cast better though. . .

 

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