Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Sunday, November 5

Sondheim in the Woods

Synopsis

“Into the Woods,” a new musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, opened on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theater on today’s date in 1987. The show brought to the stage several familiar themes from the world of fairy-tales: Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and not one, but two Prince Charmings.

But in Lapine and Sondheim’s fairy tale, decidedly bad things do happen to mostly good people, and they make some morally questionable decisions in their quest to “live happily ever after.”

In a New York Times preview, Sondheim said, “All fairy tales are parables about steps to maturity. The final step is when you become responsible for the people around you, when you feel connected to the rest of the world.”

The Times review after the show’s debut was mixed, noting that this fairy tale quest was “the same painful, existential one taken by so many adults in Sondheim musicals past.” Granting that the story was “potent stuff,” according to the reviews, there was simply too much of it, with a complicated story hampering Sondheim’s lyrical gifts from really taking off on their own.

The same complaints resurfaced when the musical was revived on Broadway in 2002, but even so, in the intervening 15 years, “Into the Woods” has gone on to become one of the most performed of all Sondheim’s musicals.

Music Played in Today's Program

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930) Into the Woods Original Broadway cast members RCA 60752

Additional Information

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