In society there is a longing for a story to have a nice and neat happy ending. Broadway and the theater originally would give this to their audience, especially in America. Give the audience what the want! They want happy endings that mirror their own values and interpretations of how the world should be and at the end of it should be, “and they all lived happily ever after.” The fairy tale ending is something society hopes, dreams, and strives for since we could listen to our parents read us fairy tales with these sweet stories of finding true love and having to fight the odds to be the Prince or Princess you deserve to be. With Into the Woods, Lapine and Sondheim sought out to explore what could go wrong with “happily ever after.” Effectively leaving the audience with the adage, “be careful what you ask for…”
Into the Woods was written by James Lapine with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The partnership of the two writers came off the break-up of the duo of Sondheim and Hal Prince (Stempel, 544). Sondheim recalls how the difference impacts his writing and what comes out of the creative process as a whole:
Hal is my age, we’ve had a more than thirty-five-year collaboration, and it’s something of a marriage…Jim is twenty something years younger and quiet, soft-spoken. He comes from an off-Broadway background where there is a different way of working and there’s more of a community feeling; everybody feels much more like a family. (Stempel, 545).
Lapine’s off-Broadway experienced definitely helped him create his style of writing, which in turn rubbed off on Sondheim even after their time as collaborators was over. Lapine felt that he championed visual theater with less reliance on text to tell the story (Stempel, 545). This was seen in Woods, as the visual depictions of the fairy tale characters intertwined with each other with some actors playing two different characters for a visual and metaphoric purpose.
The approaches to this production were innovative in itself. Turning the original play by Lapine into a musical was the first aspect of innovation by the duo. Sondheim purposely infused the music and lyrics to reflect each fairy tale character individually as to identify their story (Mankin, 61). The combination of several fairy tales into one story is a second innovative aspect that Lapine and Sondheim incorporated in the writing of Into the Woods. The audience experiences the stories of six well known fairy tales that include two new fairy tale characters created by Lapine. These tales are intertwined in combination to make a logical story of how each of these characters could have interacted with each other on their own journey into the woods. Lapine and Sondheim achieved a successful intertwining of these stories by what Sondheim calls “crosscutting,” where “no scene goes for more than about two pages” so that the dramatic actions continue to move quickly as the story of each character is told completely (Mankin, 60).