Fairy Tales, Fallacies, and Forgiveness

by | Mar 23, 2023 | What I'm Seeing and Hearing | 2 comments

If you haven’t seen Into the Woods, or if (like me, you’ve seen it only once before) this is a wonderful production to see. It’s in Boston now but is touring the country. Much of the original cast from the 2022 Broadway revival is on the tour, which is a treat, and the new folks include some big name performers known for their other work. You can find the details here. For me, this show is about the fallacies of fairy tales, the “morals” they teach us (which I think Sondheim argues may make us “nice” but not “good”). Of course it’s also about fun—the humor engendered by the silly princes (yes, that’s plural princes, not princess), the feisty little girl who takes on a wolf, the deluded daughters trying so hard to please—we can laugh at them, but are they not us? Always wanting something more, thinking we are wise to danger, succumbing to pointless expectations? The enchantment of Sondheim’s word play and the complexity of the music—these are qualities to savor.  And ultimately, it’s a story about finding community, not wish fulfillment.

But I want to talk about Broadway vs. local theater. Yes, I enjoyed this show. Boston’s very large Colonial Theater was packed—on a Tuesday night! yet I feel the need to point out that I have seen some performances that I would rank equal to this one in quality of acting, of set design, even of writing and sometimes of choreography, though most of the productions I’m thinking of weren’t really musicals) playing in much smaller houses that were sometimes half empty! And the tickets were probably half the price or less than those for Into the Woods. This is where I want to pitch to anyone anywhere reading this: check out your small local theater companies. This is where you’ll find the performers and writers and creative teams that will produce the award-winning hits of tomorrow. Sometimes it might be the actor you see in that small production this year finding her way to Broadway two years from now. Sometimes it might be the student of the director, or a kid who takes part in the theater company’s youth program (most of these small local companies offer extensive theater education). Maybe you’ll stumble on a show that drags or disappoints, but chances are high that you’ll be surprised and delighted by what you see.

I have one more comment though, and it’s a positive. After seeing this production, I found some video clips of the original 1987 Broadway production of Into the Woods. I watched a handful and was pretty amazed to see that the entire cast was WHITE! (as far as I could tell). What a weird and creepy look. I’m happy to say that I don’t think I have seen a single play in years with an all-white cast. Despite all the negatives (Disney-fication is #1 in my book, leaning on recorded soundtracks would be another) of modern theater, this is progress.