Into the Woods.
(photo credit: ARMAND PEREZ)
What does that expression mean? As an English teacher I should know the answer, but we don’t actually say it unless we are going out for a walk with the dog. However, we do say, I’m “out of the woods” and mean that we are no longer in trouble, having difficulties, struggling, having financial problems, etc.
In this intriguing musical, the woods is where a witch sends people in order to put them through an ordeal, which if carried out faithfully, will grant them a child. They’re sent “into the woods” in order to learn some very important lessons about life, love, honesty, fidelity, death and the price you have to pay for lying, stealing and being unfaithful.
These are not the usual subjects for the usual upbeat musical, but that is exactly what Into the Woods is not. This comically dark masterpiece takes our favorite fairy tale characters into the woods, and has them face the price they must pay for getting their wish. Ironically, even though it is set in a magical land where the threat of angry giants and helpful, talking birds are quite normal, it has a frank outlook on real challenges that one may face in life.
The musical is based on the book by James Lapine with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The collaboration was a highly successful Broadway musical in 1987. The phenomenal results won the show many awards. In 2014, it was adapted as a Disney movie with Meryl Streep cast as the evil, possessive, all seeing witch and Johnny Depp as the lascivious wolf, licking his lips at the thought of devouring Red Riding Hood and her granny.
The musical is anything but a child’s fairy tale. Sondheim has shown his incredible talents in writing music and lyrics that stun the audience. The roles are always demanding. The witch’s first song is a rap. We’re familiar with rap these days, but in 1987 this was shocking and was a forerunner on the Broadway stage of things to come. Audiences were hypnotized. Like his lyrics for “Officer Krupke” in the much earlier West Side Story, there is a brilliant play on words. In Into the Woods he excels at playing with words at machine gun speed. (There are also heartfelt ballads and moments which might make you cry despite the cynical humor.)
Unlike musicals which LOGON (the Light Opera Group of the Negev) has staged in the past, Into the Woods does not have the usual happy ending, boy meets girl, all ends well. Here, the happy ending comes at the end of Act One with the song “Happy Ever After” – the last line of every fairy tale. In Act Two, we see what really happens: does Cinderella actually live happily ever after with her prince; if Jack becomes wealthy from stealing from the giant do he and his mother live happily ever after? Does life demand justice for one’s sins? What happens when wishes do come true? As the show warns: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Into the Woods opens in Arad and is touring around the country. It can be seen in Givatayim, Jerusalem, Netanya, Modi’in, Ra’anana and closes in Beersheba on March 31. Tickets are available on the LOGON website for all performances www.negevlightopera.com. Come and join us as we go into the woods!
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