On Stage: “Into the Woods”

Cinderella with the doves illustration by Alexander Zick, 19th-century.

Cinderella with the doves illustration by Alexander Zick, 19th-century.

Fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, were often cautionary tales told and retold by mothers and fathers by the hearth in order to translate real-life threats into easily digestible fables for small children to understand: don’t go in the woods alone, there are things that could get you. For 16th-century Europe, wolves lurking in the shadows, kidnappings, and witches were very real threats to people who lived in villages and hamlets on the forest’s edge. Folk tales acted as a way to scare children while entertaining them—a win, win in an age before electricity, high-speed Internet, and the like—and were passed down from generation to generation, each adding their own bit of flavor to the yarn.

   It was not until two industrious chaps, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, took to the German countryside in the early 19th-century and collected these folk tales, compiling them in a series of publications known today as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, that the cautionary tales were turned into an international sensation. The stories, many of them violent and mystical, have been pared down and edited overtime (there was a vocal backlash over the violence and non-religious undertones of many stories), and have maintained a steady popularity some 200 years later, in large part by Walt Disney, who used the public-domain stories as the backbone of his animated film portfolio (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty to name but a few).  

Into the Woods - Entr'Acte Theatrix - Delray Beach Center for the Arts - Stephen Sondheim   Fast-forward to today, and the Brothers Grimm’s folklore studies are still in the limelight, most recently with Into the Woods. The Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, first came to the stage in 1987 (and was adapted into a film of the same name by who else, Disney, in 2014). The winner of multiple Tony Awards (Best Score, Beast Book, and Best Actress in a Musical—Joanna Gleason), Into the Woods intertwines multiple Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales into a enthralling journey of a baker and his wife. Unable to have children on their own, the baker and his wife agree to fulfill a number of errands for their neighbor, who just so happens to be a witch who caused their infertility with a curse. As they go about this witchy business, a number A-list fairy tale characters drop in for their wishes to be granted too, often delivered with heavy price.

Cast of Entr'Acte production of Into the Woods

The cast of Entr’Acte Theatrix’s produciton of Into the Woods.

   A romp down memory lane, Into the Woods revisits all those childhood favorites (Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk—not a Grimm work) and their various family members and fellow story characters, as they attempt to navigate a world after the last page was turned. From June 18-28, Entr’Acte Theatrix will be bringing this comedic musical sensation to the Crest Theatre at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts. Director Kevin Black is taking a “very comedic approach” with this production, so expect one heck of an evening with some rather familiar faces. Just remember: “Careful the things you say, children will listen.”

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