Fairy tale tropes with a twist: ‘Into the Woods’ opens Friday at Theatre Cedar Rapids

Into the Woods
Into the Woods offers a more modern take on the classic fairy tale. — photo by Von Presley Studios

Into the Woods

Theatre Cedar Rapids — Friday, Sept. 26 through Oct. 18

If you have ever gone beyond Disney movies and read the original versions of fairy tales, you know that they aren’t exactly for kids. They use fantastical elements and grisly details to embody the wishes and fears of adults. No modern work better embodies this spirit of fairy tales than Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Even though it went up against the powerhouse Phantom of the Opera in its 1987 debut season on Broadway, it still won Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Book and Best Direction.

The plot is based on a mishmash of tales including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood. Sondheim updates these tales by infusing them with complex motivations and moral ambiguity. The characters embark on journeys to fulfill their wishes and their stories intersect. It appears that all of the characters have had their dreams come true, but “happily ever after” doesn’t always last forever. (If you have only seen Into the Woods Jr., which is limited to Act I, you are in for a surprise.)

Movie theatres have been flooded with mediocre, action-heavy fairy tale adaptations in recent years, including Snow White and the Huntsman and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Maleficent. Almost 30 years after its debut, Into the Woods remains popular with audiences because it uses magic and make-believe to focus on real, human concerns.

Into the Woods opens Friday, Sept. 26 at Theatre Cedar Rapids.

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