Weeks of Welcome event takes University students ‘Into the Woods’


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Lydia Lutchman, Contributor

Stephen Sondheim was an accomplished composer and lyricist with works like “West Side Story” and “Sweeney Todd” in his portfolio. His works include themes that challenged traditional genre subjects and focused on the darker, more distressing aspects of circumstances that humans encounter. 

Sondheim has written numerous Broadway shows and even has a theater named after him in both New York City and London. One of his best-known works is his musical “Into the Woods,” originally based on the novel written by James Lapine. “Into the Woods” intertwines the plots of multiple fairy tales by Brothers Grimm and focuses on the unintended repercussions that the wishes and desires of the characters have on their lives and others.

During its debut in 1987, “Into the Woods” won three Tony Awards, which consisted of Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress. The musical has since amassed a great following, having multiple national tours, a West End production in 1990, a tenth-anniversary reunion concert, a Broadway revival in 2002 and a West End revival in 2010. Disney released a film adaptation in 2014 that earned approximately $213 million worldwide and nominations at various award shows

On June 28, a second Broadway revival began at the St. James Theatre starring Broadway icons including Sara Bareilles, Brian d’Arcy James, Patina Miller, Phillipa Soo, Gavin Creel, and Joshua Henry. The show was originally supposed to run through Aug. 21, but due to high ticket sales and an abundance of support from fans, the production extended its run through Oct. 16 with a few changes in the cast, like the addition of Stephanie J. Block, Andy Karl and Cheyenne Jackson.

Rumors started to form that the production planned to extend the run into 2023, and that turned out to be true once it was revealed that it was extended through Jan. 8, 2023. Knowing the University’s love for all things theater, the Center for Student Engagement hosted one of their Weeks of Welcome events set aside to go see “Into the Woods.”

Being in the heart of the greatest city in the world, University students and faculty members took advantage of the opportunity to get inexpensive tickets to see one of the most critically acclaimed revivals that have graced Broadway in recent years. Assistant Director for Leadership Programs at the University Gabriella Lester saw the show recently.

“I thought it was really funny, and the cast was really good,” Lester said. “The Baker and the Baker’s Wife are married in real life, so I thought that was fun and interesting to watch people who have relationships outside interact on stage together.”

“Into the Woods” brings a twist to the fairy tale genre, having a realistic ending rather than a happily-ever-after, which portrays that actions have both good and bad consequences. The musical’s first act begins with the Baker and the Baker’s Wife discovering that they have a curse set on them by a Witch that makes them unable to bear children. The Witch gives them an option of undoing the curse on their house by finding and bringing her some keys and familiar items from the fairytales. With the help of characters like Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella,” the couple is able to break the curse and bear a child together. As Act II begins, all the happiness the characters once experienced begins to unfold and big horrors, both literally and figuratively, begin to enter their domain.

The bittersweet yet realistic ending stirs the heartstrings of both children and adults alike, and the late Stephen Sondheim’s legacy is once again honored in this production’s stunning revival.