Dissecting Into The Woods

By, Teresa Lawlor

Into the Woods combines the music and lyrical genius of Stephen Sondheim and a clever script by James Lapine to tell the interwoven stories of several well-loved fairy tale characters, from Cinderella to the Big Bad Wolf to Rapunzel. Like the versions of the stories that remain popular today, the show at first presents an uncomplicated plot and a solution that neatly wraps up all of the loose ends. However, as the story progresses, it begins to ask questions with answers that are not as simple as just finding ‘the cape as read as blood, the cow as white as milk, the slipper as pure as gold, and the hair as yellow as corn.’ What happens when a ‘happy ever after’ is not exactly as imagined? Who is responsible when disaster strikes?

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While the show ultimately looks at questions with broader implications, the audience is kept entertained by its magical and imaginative veneer. Among the large ensemble cast is a talking wolf, an angry giant, a hen who lays golden eggs, and a girl whose golden hair is long enough to reach the forest floor from her tower window. “There are some magical moments in the show that we knew we wanted to make sure we did properly and we designed and built the set with these in mind,” says Mr. Johnson, the director of the musical.

Mr. Johnson cited this “use [of] magic and fantastical situations to discuss very deep, real world issues around family and relationships” as one of the main reasons why he selected this particular show. Students always seem to turn out in higher numbers for musical auditions; according to Helen Sayegh ’17, who plays the Witch, “the freedom musicals in general (and this [show] in particular) give you to be ridiculous and completely overdone” was one of the main reasons she auditioned. This year, more than 40 Winsor students tried out, further evidence for the continued growth of the theater program and community. “We have also started to develop a community of actors that have done multiple shows with me and with one another,” says Mr. Johnson. “I firmly believe that this bond runs extremely deep and these friendships will be ones that students remember.”

During rehearsals, the importance of this bond between cast members, especially in such a large ensemble, was frequently emphasized and is also apparent in the show. “The [moral], ‘no one is alone,’ is about community responsibility,” says Mr. Johnson. “We are not islands unto ourselves: the things we do affect one another and relying on each for support [and] strength can be a great gift.” “Into the Woods” extolls the importance of uniting and acting for the good of all when trouble arises, even when it doesn’t directly impact everyone. “The story applies to today, especially in our current political climate,” says Kayla L. ’19, “because it is about how everyone is responsible for the community and have to work together in order to make life better for all.”

This moral was also relevant when the musical was first written during the late 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis, which was especially prevalent in the theater community. Despite the disastrous effects the epidemic had on the country, the government failed to address the issue until its reach extended out of the marginalized communities in which it first appeared. Today, during a time when many seem eager to ignore the troubles of others, it is up to the people to advocate for universal equality and justice. When “Into the Woods” performed on April 28th and 29th at 8pm, the cast reminded the audience of just that.