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File:Into the woods graphic.jpg

 "I wish..."

Musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim that weaves together the fairy tales of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel.

In the first act, a baker and his wife who desperately want a child are told by the witch who cursed their family with infertility that she'll lift the spell if they do something for her first. She sends them on a quest that takes them in and out of the other stories, collecting Cinderella's slipper, Jack's cow, the little red riding hood, and some of Rapunzel's hair. There's also a mysterious old man who appears from time to time, trying to help the quest along for reasons of his own. After a certain amount of deception, theft, and murder -- you remember how these stories go, right? -- everybody gets what they were wishing for at the beginning, and there's a big song-and-dance number about living happily ever after.

Then in the second act, everybody has to grow up and face the consequences of their actions.

The show is one of Sondheim's most famous, alongside Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Company. In the year dominated by Phantom of the Opera, it was able to snag three Tony Awards, for Best Score, Best Book, and Best Leading Actress (Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife). The original Broadway production has since been followed by a notably contentious revival in 2002, as well as numerous productions across the country at everywhere from the regional to the high school drama level.

Many people are most familiar with the excellent version filmed by PBS under its American Playhouse banner in 1991 and subsequently released on home video; this was based on the original Broadway production and had most of the same cast.

In early 2012, it was announced that Walt Disney Pictures had acquired the film rights, placing Rob Marshall (Chicago and Pirates of the Caribbean 4) into the director's chair.

Now has a character sheet.

Tropes used in Into the Woods include:


  • Acting for Two: According to Original Cast Precedent, the Narrator and the Mysterious Man are played by the same actor. Same goes for Cinderella's Prince and the Wolf, as well as Cinderella's Mother and the Giantess and Granny. Usually played in an And You Were There fashion, at least for the first two actors.
    • In the Broadway revival, Cinderella's Mother was played by a recording of Cinderella's own actress.
  • Afraid of Blood: Cinderella's Prince.

  "Yes but even one prick, it's my thing about blood!"

  • Alcoholic Parent: Cinderella's Father: "The closer to the family, the closer to the wine."
  • All for Nothing: The second act does this to the first act. Especially for the Baker.
  • And You Were There: Depending on the production, some characters with similar traits are played by the same actor. See Acting for Two above.
  • Anti-Villain: The Witch
    • Also the Giantess. Let's face it: her charges against Jack have a lot of justice to them.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played to the extreme when they kill off the least likely character of all... the Narrator
  • Arc Words: No specific phrase, but count the number of times they say "children", "giant(s)", "witch(es)", "wish(es)", "wolves", "spell(s)", "right", and "wrong" just in a generic context.
    • "I wish" is always sung the exact same way, with the same two notes.
    • Also the words "nice" and "good" - particularly in lines sung by Cinderella and Little Red.
  • Author Existence Failure: A meta version the characters freak out after the narrator is killed as he was "the only one who knew how the story went."
  • Back From the Dead: Milky White.
  • Bad Bad Acting: The Baker's Wife when she tries to get Jack to trade/buy the magic beans for the cow. "Oh... Oh! Oh no, we mustn't give up our beans!"
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: "Wishes come true. They don't come free."
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Blame Game
  • Bowdlerise: A "Junior" version of this show is available from the company that licenses the full-length version for community theaters and schools. The entire second act is cut out. Justified in that the target demographic for the junior version is elementary school students. Not to mention that the play would end up running for hours if they kept Act Two in. The show is still performed in its entirety in middle and high school productions.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: They pull the narrator into the play and then kill him.
  • The Casanova: Both Princes.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: The Mysterious Man's enigmatic introduction, the final time he offers it; overlaps with Rule of Three.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: The Baker, at the end of Act II after he snaps out of his Heroic BSOD
  • Character Development: In the end, the only good thing out of the whole mess was that the (still living) main characters grew as individuals and are ultimately better people than they were before.
  • Chorus-Only Song: "Children Will Listen" actually has a short introductory verse that was not used in any of the main productions. However, it was recorded for the revue 'Sondheim on Sondheim' and singers occasionally use it when recording the song on its own.
  • Crapsack World: The world becomes this during the second act, especially after the Narrator dies, after he says, prophetically, "You don't want to live in a world of chaos."
  • Curse Escape Clause
  • Darkest Hour: Act II.
  • Dark Is Not Evil
  • Dark Reprise: Inverted with the first parts of "Stay With Me" and "Lament", which later become the happier "Children Will Listen".
    • And most ironically, the song "Ever After," where everyone joyously sings about how everything has worked out perfectly, is reprised into "Your Fault" which is the principal five characters trying to place the blame for how everything got so messed up.
      • And in a very, very meta example, the melody of "Any Moment" (sung by Cinderella's prince as he seduces the baker's wife) is the counterpoint in "Moments in the Woods" where she regrets the discretion.
  • Darker and Edgier: The entire second half of the play.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Little Red Riding Hood has elements of this.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Cinderella with her mother's spirit when visiting her grave.
    • The Baker and his father in the final act.
      • He's not completely dead-- if only in the sense that you carry your parents with you forever. He hangs a lampshade on this, of course.
    • The Baker and his wife near the very end.
  • Death by Sex: Well, whether sex was involved is up for interpretation, but The Baker's Wife does die very shortly after her 'encounter' with Cinderella's Prince.
  • Death Equals Redemption: The Mysterious Man and the Baker's Wife.
  • Death Glare: The filmed version (and several stage versions) have the Witch deliver a glorious (and often hilarious) one to the Baker when he says, "Giants never strike the same place twice."
  • Deconstruction of fairy tales.
  • Deconstruction Crossover
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Rapunzel and The Baker's Wife's deaths for The Witch and The Baker.
    • Rapunzel is so traumatized she's gone crazy by the beginning of Act Two and eventually throws herself in the Giant's path.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jack's. Mentioned as being "not back" for one line in the first act and never brought up again.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Wolf gets particularly excited about getting to devour Little Red Riding Hood, and she too reminisces about how he "excited" her and showed her "such new things" she had never seen before.
    • "I guess it does take two to make a baby!"
  • Double Standard: See Karma Houdini below, but in a nutshell: The Baker's Wife is unfaithful and dies moments later, while the Princes--who were also being unfaithful--forget their wives and find other women to rescue, marry, and presumably cheat on again.
    • Justified (?) in that the Baker's Wife's behavior is not portrayed as making her a horrible person, and the Princes' behavior is not portrayed as being reasonable or excusable.
  • Driven to Suicide: Rapunzel and The Witch
  • Dumb Blonde: Cinderella's stepsisters. Rapunzel also show elements of this in act one. By act two she's fallen apart somewhat.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Baker and his wife, the Steward and, of course, the Narrator.
  • Exact Words / Loophole Abuse: The Baker needs to find "Hair as yellow as corn." Nothing says that the hair cannot come from an actual ear of corn.
  • Extreme Omnivore: After collecting all four of the items, the Witch order the Baker and his wife to feed them to the cow, then milk her.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Rapunzel's Prince gets his eyes gouged out by thorns as per the original story.
    • As do Cinderella's stepsisters (though by birds rather than thorns).
    • And the Giantess.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Baker, Cinderella, Jack and Little Red
  • Five Stages of Grief: The Baker goes through these during Act II after his wife is killed.
  • For the Evulz: The reason that The Witch curses The Baker's family to forever be barren.
  • Foreshadowing: The last lines of the 1st Act are "Happily ever after!", right after the narrator adds "To be continued."
    • There's also the Baker's Wife eagerly asking Cinderella's questions about the Prince and admiring the Princes.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale
  • Genius Bruiser: "NOT ALL GIANTS ARE DUMB!"
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Pointed out in act 2. The giantess that was causing so much destruction was rightly furious at Jack, and the chaos and carnage she caused was largely on accident. The characters spend a scene or two contemplating just who is the villain anymore.
    • Probably best summed up in "You Are Not Alone"

  "Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what's right. You decide what's good. Someone is on your side/ someone else is not/ While we're seeing our side/ maybe we forgot: They are not alone. No one is alone."

  • Grief Song: "The Witch's Lament" and "No More."
  • Grimmification: Of Grimm stories themselves!
  • Ghost Song: Twice: "No More" and the brief reprise of "No One Is Alone" by The Baker's Wife before "Children Will Listen".
  • The Gwen Stacy: Several: Baker's Wife to Baker, Rapunzel to Witch (though ironically not Rapunzel's Prince), Jack's Mother to Jack, and to a lesser extent, Granny to Little Red)
  • Hair of Gold: Although technically, it's as yellow as corn.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Agony!
    • Far more painful than yooooours!
  • Happily Ever After: Subverted, or rather deconstructed.
  • Happily Married: The Baker and his Wife.
  • Heroic BSOD: The Baker, BIG TIME after his wife dies.
  • Idiot Hero: Jack. One of the idiot-est.
  • Interactive Narrator: Hoo boy. He's even mortal. Very mortal.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: The Witch's perception of human nature
  • It Got Worse: The second act, particularly with the death of the Narrator, immediately after which Rapunzel and Jack's Mother also die, and the Baker and his wife exchange angry last words to each other.
  • "I Want" Song: Really, the first act is one big "I Want" Song
    • Or "I Wish" Song.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: The Witch. And she becomes a looker again.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Witch is more than just a classic villain, especially considering her moment of anguish after Rapunzel dies, and the fact that she, of all people, is the one who sings the beautiful "Children Will Listen" at the end.
  • Karma Houdini: While the stepsisters are blinded by pigeons, their mother and stepfather--arguably even more responsible for Cinderella's suffering--never gets such treatment, although it is implied that the whole family starves to death at the end: "when going to hide know how to get there, how to get back, and eat first."
    • Worse still, Cinderella's Prince seduces the Baker's wife. She realizes that it was a mistake and learns a lesson from it, and promptly dies. He continues on without changing and winds up with Sleeping Beauty.
    • Even worse, the other prince watches Rapunzel die, runs off in fear, and only shows up again in the finale with Snow White. At least Cinderella's Prince is shown to be conflicted, and is even told by Cinderella that she no longer wants to be his.
    • One could argue that the two princes are obsessed with the new, never being happy with what they have, always being disappointed in what they can't have, and thus will never actually have a happy life.
    • The Steward literally gets away with murder.
  • Knight Templar Parent: See My Beloved Smother below
  • Large Ham: Both Princes (see Ham-to-Ham Combat above), but Cinderella's Prince is definitely more of this trope, since not only does he get another scene where he flirts with the Baker's Wife and eventually seduces her, but the actor who plays him usually plays the Wolf as well.
    • Don't forget Bernadette Peters as the Witch.
  • Last Request: Jack's Mother, right before dying, demands that the Baker protect Jack from the giantess. And the Baker obliges to the best of his ability.
  • Leitmotif: A short musical theme, heard when Jack gives the beans to the Baker, finds its way into several of the songs, and is the entire basis for the Witch's "Stay With Me."
  • Lemony Narrator
  • Light Is Not Good
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: Red
  • Living Prop: Literally? In the original production of Into The Woods, Milky White was usually just a wooden figurine of a cow, just like the horses. But in the revivals and more modern productions usually Milky White is played by a character in an elaborate cow costume, though they still mostly just stand in place and are then dragged on and off stage.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: A good chunk of Act II after The Baker's Wife is killed and The Baker has his Heroic BSOD, abandoning the other surviving characters for a while.
  • The Lost Woods
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Mysterious Man to The Baker. He doesn't actually say it, though, preferring to remain unknown; it's the Witch who spills the beans.
  • Make a Wish: "I wish..." opens the show. Magic, however, comes in only indirectly - Cinderella going to her mother's grave to request silver and gold (a dress appears); the Baker and his Wife agree to fulfill the demands of the Witch, who would then allow them to conceive a child. However, all of their wishes come back to haunt them in Act II, which opens with the same words.
    • Ends with them, too. (But it's usually drowned out by the applause.)
  • Mama Bear: For as dumb as she is, Jack's Mother.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and an original work all exist in the same world, in the same kingdom, in the same woods.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: The opening numbers of both acts, "Ever After", "First Midnight", and to a lesser extent "Second Midnight".
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: When The Baker, Jack, Little Red and Cinderella team up to kill the other giant.
  • Missing Mom: Cinderella's mother, who helps her out as a ghost/spirit in the tree. But in Act 2, the tree is destroyed.
  • My Beloved Smother: Rapunzel summed it up best.

 Witch: What's the matter?

Rapunzel: Oh, nothing! You just locked me in a tower without company for fourteen years, then you blinded my Prince and banished me to a desert where I had little to eat, and again no company, and then bore twins! Because of the way you treated me, (cries) I'll never, never be happy!

Witch: (Beat; defensive, yet sincere) I was just trying to be a good mother.

    • Jack's Mother is pretty controlling too.
  • Mythology Gag: The first act keeps all the most important points in the original fairytales, but they're played hilariously, including the parts you never thought could actually be funny. Notable examples include Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off their toes, Little Red and Granny coming out of the Wolf's stomach, and Rapunzel crying into the prince's eyes.
    • The show also plays with the fact that Cinderella's slippers are incredibly valuable. Wouldn't they be a little hard to walk in? Yes.
      • According to Cinderella, they're not very good for dancing either.
    • Also, how does the Witch climb up Rapunzel's hair without any trouble and without hurting the girl? She doesn't.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: The Baker and his wife. MAJOR Tearjerker.
  • Never My Fault: The whole premise for the song, "Your Fault", until the Witch calls everyone out on it
  • Nice Is Not Good
  • Ninja Prop: The narrator becomes one.
  • No Fourth Wall: Especially in the PBS filming where The Witch talks to a little boy in the audience for a moment.
  • No Name Given: Only Jack, Cinderella, Cinderella's stepsisters, and Rapunzel have actual names.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Steward in the Act Two opening.
  • Only Sane Man: The Witch has elements of this in Act Two, when she shows herself to be the only person who understands the gravity of the situation, and the unpleasant things that may need to be done to solve it.
  • Original Cast Precedent: Responsible most prominently for the Acting for Two listed above.
  • Parenting the Husband: The Baker's Wife, a little bit. The Baker even admits that he depends on her for everything after she dies.
  • Patter Song: "Your Fault", and the Witch's raps in the act openers.
    • Don't forget about "Maybe They're Magic" and "Moments in the Woods"!
  • Pet the Dog: The Witch towards Rapunzel, except when she's angry at her. In the first act, she instantly changes emotion and starts fawning every time she hears Rapunzel singing.
  • Plot Coupon
  • Prince Charming: Deconstructed--see Prince Charmless.
  • Prince Charmless: "I was raised to be charming, not sincere."
  • Princess Classic: Deconstructed/subverted with Cinderella and Rapunzel.
  • Promotion to Parent: In Act II, Cinderella and the Baker have to move on from young adults who still rely on the ideals of their (absent) parents, to being mentors to Little Red and Jack, respectively.
    • Played for laughs when Jack asks who will take care of him now that his mother is dead, and Little Red chimes in with 'I'll be your mother now.'
      • Made even better by the fact that, in many productions, Red is clearly younger than Jack, by at least a couple years.
  • Rage Against the Author
  • Rhymes on a Dime: A lot of The Witch's dialogue during the Act I and II openings.
    • Averted with the Mysterious Man, who has clearly rehearsed his rhyming introduction.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Averted in that both Princes are frickin' useless. Played with in that Cinderella tries to help, but has to dress as a commoner to do so.
  • Rule of Three
  • Shout-Out: To "Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow White".
  • Snicket Warning Label
  • The Soprano: Averted (mostly) with both Cinderella and Rapunzel, at least by the second act--they both have quite a bit of ingenue about them, but neither of them is a Purity Sue or Shallow Love Interest.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: This is the Baker's attitude in the beginning of the first act, but he gets over it.
  • Stepford Smiler: Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters at the start of Act 2. They're blinded and lame and they're still insisting that they're happy as long as Cinderella is happy.
  • Survivor Guilt: The surviving characters at the end of the show. Especially The Baker.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
  • Tenor Boy: Jack
  • Took a Level In Badass: The Baker, Jack, Cinderella and Little Red.
  • Totally Radical: The Witch's Patter Songs have elements of this, musically, being Sondheim and the orchestrator's idea of what rap music sounded like.
  • True Companions: By the end of the show, the Baker, Cinderella, Jack, and Red Riding Hood, as the surviving heroes seemed destined to become these.
  • Two-Act Structure
  • The Unintelligible: Rapunzel only has a few scenes where she actually talks. The rest of the show, she expresses her feelings by "humming a lighthearted air" and screaming.
    • Somewhat Lampshaded by her prince. After the reprise of "Agony," Rapunzel, out of nowhere, lets out an enormous scream. The prince doesn't look the slightest bit shocked and says "Rapunzel," in deadpan.
  • Unnamed Parent: Half the cast--The Baker and his Wife, Jack's Mother, Cinderella's Mother and Father, The Mysterious Man.
  • Villain Love Song
  • Villainous Breakdown: The witch after Rapunzel's death, quickly leading to "Last Midnight" and her subsequent abandonment of the rest of the cast and return to ugliness, with her powers restored. CRUUUUUUUUUNCH!
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: The two princes run on this trope. They obsess in the song "Agony" over the women they can't have, but once those are won they're immediately off pursuing a new set of seemingly unattainable women (with occasional dalliances on the side.) It's all capped off by this exchange, as Cinderella and her Prince break up:

 Cinderella's Prince: "I shall always love the maiden who ran away."

Cinderella: "And I, the faraway prince."

  • We Could Have Avoided All This: When the characters try to offer the Narrator to the Giantess as a sacrifice, the Narrator reminds them that the story would be lost if he was obliterated. Regardless of this, however, the Witch gives the Narrator to the Giantess anyway, and as soon as the Giantess sees that the Narrator isn't Jack, the Narrator is dropped from the Giantess' hand and killed. Possibly concerned of the subsequent events of the story without the Narrator, the Baker's Wife points out: "We might have thought of something else."
    • Though a more or less justifiable example would be after the Witch lays a major Reason You Suck Song on Cinderella, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Baker pointing out what their actions from Act I have gotten them into:

 Jack: Maybe I shouldn't have stolen from the Giant.

Little Red Riding Hood: Maybe I shouldn't have strayed from the path.

Cinderella: Maybe I shouldn't have attended the ball.

Baker: Yes, maybe you shouldn't have.

  • Wham Moment: Act Two is going great, everyone's "So happy" - until the Giantess enters.
    • There is a very minor Wham! Line near the beginning; when Red Riding Hood enters, she says that she found her house collapsed, and the music stops briefly when she says that she couldn't find her mother.
  • What Happened To The Cow?
    • It probably died of indigestion. Or got crushed when the giantess crushed Jack's house.
    • Rapunzel's twin babies.
      • In some productions, they die with their mother under the Giantess' foot. In case you didn't get that Act II was going to be rough...
    • The witch tells the baker offhand that he has a sister that the witch had taken from his parents. The narrator confirms that Rapunzel is indeed his sister. This is never brought up or mentioned, and none of the characters bother with this connection.
    • Also an example in-story during act two: the heroes have to do some quick thinking to remember, "What happened to the last magic bean?" The answer: The Baker's Wife tried to pawn it to Cinderella, who just threw it aside, and the Wife never found it. That allowed that bean to take root and grow into a second beanstalk.
      • Which begs the question of all those beans the Witch throws around in 'Last Midnight.' Are we sure all of them were picked up? What if another stalk sprouts?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: "Ask a wolf's mother."
    • Little Red Riding Hood, worries about this, when they plan to kill the giant. "A giant's still a person, isn't it?"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Witch's interruption of "Your Fault" with "Last Midnight" strongly involves calling out the other main characters for their contributions to the general misery.
    • "Your Fault", meanwhile, is everyone calling everyone out for awhile, before deciding to throw all the blame on the Witch, who is definitely not blameless.
    • "No More" opens with the Baker calling his father out on his actions.
      • And the rest of the song is the Baker's father calling the Baker out on his decision to run away from his problems.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:

  "Dwarfs are very upsetting..."

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