My father introduced me to Into the Woods around nine years-old. Some of my most vibrant memories include singing Agony with him in our living room. It was my first experience understanding that stories are told differently depending on the teller, and opened my imagination to interpretations of fairy tales outside of Disney.
I’ve been thinking of how Into the Woods gave me a healthy and challenging outlook on life: song by song, story by story, character by character. Some of these outlooks are revelations the characters have and some are what the audience understands through their journey. Some were lessons I put immediately into practice and some had to wait until I grew older than my nine years.
Prologue: Into the Woods
Photo Credit: Martha Swope/NYPL
Photo Credit: Martha Swope/NYPL
We are all one. All of our stories, our lives, involve one another. No person lives solo in this world, and everyone’s choices affect the lives around us.
Go after what you want, even if the road is scary and untread.
Something I didn’t realize was true until it happened to me: Pregnancy can really cause you to crave “greens, greens and nothing but greens!” At least until you crave fruit the next day.
Don’t steal from your neighbor. Seriously.
Only female cows milk (This was definitely a 9 year old me’s revelation. Seems common sense once you know, but I was quite the city mouse.)
Hello, Little Girl
Kids: It’s better to ask your Mother why the woods are scary than just take her word for it. Otherwise, one charming wolf is all it takes for you to step off the path.
Moms: Just talk to your kids about wolves. If all we know is that it’s scary, curiosity will win.
I Guess This is Goodbye
Take your moment to say goodbye.
It’s also interesting to me that this is the only song in the show that doesn’t rhyme, which I learned after attending the Into the Woods Reunion. (Yes, of course I got all fangirl. Bernadette Peters live!)
Maybe They’re Magic
You can talk yourself into justifying anything to get what you want, even magic beans. I didn’t always heed this advice, even if I privately acknowledged it to myself.
Little white lies will bite you in the ass one day.
I Know Things Now
Oof. Where to start? This song is the most influential on my younger self, particularly with dating. Namely:
Bad/weird experiences are just that, experiences. They do not define you. They do change you. Learn from them and move on with your life. Don’t beat yourself up over a mistake, just don’t make the same one again.
Oh, and if some kindly person saves your life, do offer a gift of gratitude. Especially if you stole their bread earlier.
A Very Nice Prince
Everyone will always want what they can’t have.
It’s okay to feel iffy about something or someone you thought you wanted.
If the reality of your dream isn’t what you thought it would be, BAIL. That is what I wanted Cinderella to do, anyway. But I have strong feelings about Cinderella.
I‘d probably just have to copy and paste the whole song to explain this one. There’s one line that made an impression on me and pays off later:
“The slotted spoon can’t hold much soup.”
Giants in the Sky
You have to understand that I wanted to BE Jack when I was young. Not just play him onstage, but be him.
In many ways, I valued traveling the world because of this verse (bold mine):
The roof, the house, and your Mother at the door.
The roof, the house and the world you never thought to explore.
And you think of all of the things you’ve seen,
And you wish that you could live in between,
And you’re back again,
Only different than before,
After the sky.
Yes, go and explore the world. Travel to new places, meet new people. But make sure you also know where you came from and what it offers as well.
There’s always more to a story than what we think we know. Prince Charmings were so often just set dressing until Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin (with a nod to Prince Phillip in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty for at least having some spunk), and here we discover that sibling competition and bravado has something to do with their choice of a bride. Oh yes, and the need for what they can’t get.The fact that the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince are the same actor deepened the lessons learned in I Know Things Now. *
It Takes Two
I thought I understood this song at nine, fourteen, twenty years-old, but only since my husband came into my life do I get to live it.
Wanting a ball is not wanting a Prince. I once learned a friend of mine had been married before we met and I found it hard to believe. Her sister explained that She wanted a wedding, not a marriage. That concept had never really occurred to me, and it’s possible that is because of this song.
Stay With Me
Moms are people too. They may overreact sometimes but it comes from a deep love and fear of being alone – though it may seem borderline obsessive to the daughter.
I’m not sure how this may be affecting my own early motherhood, but more time will tell.
On the Steps of the Palace
If you’re unsure how somebody feels about you or how you feel about somebody, leave a clue. The interesting ones will follow through. My husband did!
Act One Finale
Enjoy your success. That was only Act 1.
Did “Into the Woods” affect you in some way? Share below.
*Obviously this is not how they did it in the movie. That was the first change I heard from live to the movie, and I think it helped me reserve judgment on the other changes. It reminded me that in a different medium, different ways to approach the storytelling are needed. Besides, I like Chris Pine just fine and am not sure Johnny Depp could have nailed a film Prince Charming (the teenage me could have accepted Depp Charming, no question).