‘The Woods are just Trees. The Trees are just Wood.’ – All together
In 1987, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine combined several classic fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk to create Into the Woods. Funny and heartfelt, this musical explores what it might mean to act responsibly in society, both as a parent and as a child.
Situating the work within Sondheim’s oeuvre and the Broadway canon, Olaf Jubin first offers a detailed reading of the show itself, before discussing key productions in New York and London, and 2014’s Oscar-nominated screen adaptation. The radically different approaches to staging Into the Woods are testament to how open the musical is to re-interpretation for new audiences.
A combination of critical explication with performance and film analysis, as well as an overview of popular and critical reception, this book is meant for anyone who has enjoyed Into the Woods, be it as a musical theatre fan, an enchanted audience member, a student or a dedicated theatre professional.
I Introduction or ‘Once Upon a Time’:
A Fairy Tale Musical like No Other
II. ‘You’re Back Again Only Different than Before’:
The Show’s Place in Sondheim’s Oeuvre
III. ‘There Are Rights and Wrongs and In-Betweens’:
Selfish Aims Giving Way to Considerate Cooperation
III.1 ‘One Midnight Gone’: Starting on the Quest
III.2 ‘Two Midnights Gone’: Continuing the Quest
III.3 ‘It’s Nearing Midnight": Completing the Quest
III.4 ‘It’s the Last Midnight’: Finding the Culprit
III.5 ‘That’s What Woods Are for’: The Meaning of Learning
IV. ‘Valuable Things That I Hadn’t Thought to Explore’:
Interpreting Into the Woods on Stage
V. ‘Nice Is Different than Good":
Rob Marshall’s 2014 movie adaptation
VI. Conclusion or ‘Be Ready for the Journey’
Routledge’s Fourth Wall books are short, accessible accounts of some of modern theatre’s best loved works. They take a subjective but easily digestible approach to their topics, allowing their authors the opportunity to explore their chosen subject in a way that is absorbing enough to be of use both to lovers of theatre and those who are being asked to study a play more deeply.
Each book in the series looks at a specific play, variously exploring its themes, contexts and characteristics while prioritising original, insightful writing over complexity or scholarly weight. While other cultural products such as albums and films are well served by this kind of writing, the Fourth Wall series aims to find room between rigorous analysis and the short format of reviews or articles. They are extended accounts that get to the heart of their chosen works without being bound by the density that academic treatments can often require.