Plays and Musicals

Musical Review of Into the Woods

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine

Type: Fairy Tale, Fantasy

Basic Plot: A couple that owns a bakery wish that they had a child, but are told by their neighbor, a witch, that they may only have one if they can get her four items by three midnights. The couple then goes into the woods to find the items. They aren’t the only people who want something, though, and as fairy tale characters end up in the woods to fulfill their personal wants, they also end up with a lot of unexpected things they didn’t want.

Quality

Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: When I was writing the basic plot of this musical, I was wondering, “Is there even a way for this musical to have a basic plot?” Not to be rude to people who have this, but the when I read a summary of the plot, I thought person who wrote this probably had ADHD. The plot was an attempt to combine as many fairy tales as possible in a way that made sense. I think it worked out well. The fairy tales were more based off of the originals than the more common modern ones. Cinderella doesn’t have a fairy godmother, but a tree with her mom’s spirit. Rapunzel’s prince is thrown down the tower and blinded when the witch finds out about the two’s friendship. The original fairy tales are more violent and dramatic than the modern ones, so it more interesting but unfortunately less child-friendly.

The first half of the story has all the fairy tale characters trying to achieve their goals. It is a lot like the average family-friendly fairy tale story except that it talks about five or six people’s fairy tales rather than one. The second half has a lot of twist and is not as dark as some modern fairy tale movies, but is still more grown up than Disney’s original Cinderella. The fairy tale characters are now reaping what they had sown from their choices.

Story Organization: 4/5 Very Well Done: The play does feel a longer than it actually is because a lot of things happen in it, but it was done smoothly still since there was so much in it. It was not hard to keep up with the plot, which surprised me a little considering when you read a plot summary it is very jumbled sounding. Things all happened in a good order and time.

Music: 4/5 Very Well Done: There are two types of musicals, one where the musical is almost trivial and like an accessory that makes it more interesting but is not that important, and the one where there is so much music that it is almost an opera. This musical is the latter. It has lots of songs for almost every thing that happens that has to do with the plot. The style is just musical theater. The songs were made to be dramatic, though I think some songs were made to be dramatic to push humor. There was a good mixture of exciting and calmer songs.

Moral: 3½/5 Almost All Good Morals: There are plenty of good morals in this play. I could probably devote an article to Into the Woods morals. The main moral of this play had two parts to it. The first part of the moral is to be responsible for what you do, and even if you refuse to acknowledge it, it will catch up with you. Many characters refuse to directly make choices or if they do consider what will come of them. Eventually they start reaping what they sow. While most of the characters refuse to accept responsibility and die for it, four of them choose to change their way of looking at things and their attitude and survive. In the end they conclude to be more careful when they pursued a goal or made a choice. The second moral had to do with children. As well saying that you should be careful to make good decisions and goals, they also talked about training your child by being a good example. Children sometimes disobey rules, but your example in what you say and do will reach your children a lot. The Bible does say in Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The only moral thing I was not as pleased with was in the song No One Is Alone. Red Riding Hood feels guilty that they are going to kill a giantess and wonders what her mother and grandmother would want her to do. Meanwhile Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk has heard that his mother has been killed and is trying to decide if he should avenge her or not. The people they are with tell them it is time for them to make their own choices and that no matter what they choose someone will always support them. They are told, “You decide what’s good.” I understand there is a time to make our own choices, but I do think it went further than was needed in its message.

Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The musical was well done and is recommended. There are a lot of surprises and it is funnier and wittier than I expected. I think people twelve and older would understand the play and that either gender would like it.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: The Witch uses “raping” to describe a man stealing from her. The Witch sometimes aims her staff at the Baker right below the belt. Cinderella’s prince convinces the Baker’s Wife to have a one afternoon stand with him. This is usually just done with kissing and the Baker’s Wife not wearing her scarf or coat. Otherwise it is appropriate. Some ladies say the Baker “molested” them when he was trying to see their hair. Rapunzel has children before she marries the prince. Some people find the song Hello Little Girl – the song sung by the wolf that wants to eat Little Red Riding Hood – to be suggestively pedophilic and the song I Know Things Now suggestive in that Little Red Riding Hood is describing this pedophilic experience. The lyrics do make it reasonable to feel a little uncomfortable, but the song is not extremely suggestive as to make the everyday person be get completely disturbed by it.

Violence: 2½/5 Moderate Non-Bloody Violence: A giant dies by falling off a bean stalk, but it is only talked about. The Baker cuts a wolf’s stomach. Red Riding Hood’s Granny talks about killing the wolf and stabs at him. Red Riding stamps on at least one persons foot. Red Riding Hood is really into knives and self defense. It talks about a man hurting his eyes and being blinded. Several people get smacked at times. Almost all the characters die, some of them by being crushed by a giantess. The crushing is usually sound affects, screams, and the stage being blacked out or lighting effects. Cinderella’s stepmother chops off the heel and toe of her daughters to force their feet to fit the slipper. Some birds peck out the stepsister’s eyes at the wedding. A man hits a woman on the head with a staff and she dies from it. A giantess is killed offstage by having her eyes pecked out and two men attacking her.

Swearing and Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain: 1/5 One Light Utterance: A form of damn is misused once.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Slightly Disturbing and Emotional: Most of the people die in this play before it ends, some by being crushed and others by starvation. When the wolf is cut open Red Riding Hood and her Granny come out. When the stepsister’s parts of their feet are cut off there is mention of there being blood. In the second half, Rapunzel goes through constant emotional breakdowns. A man does not want to go into a place with thorny bushes because he does not like blood. A boy wants to kill a man after he finds out she was accidentally murdered, but he never does.

Religious Issues: 1/5 Slightly Suggestive: Cinderella’s mother’s spirit is in a tree. That is how she talks to Cinderella and gives her presents. Several people think that an old man in the forest is “a spirit” and even after he officially dies he talks to someone. The Baker’s Wife talks to him after she is dead.

Magic: 3/5 Fairy Tale Magic: There is basic fairy tale magic like spells, magic items, mention of fairy tale creatures, etc.. Though there is a witch, no witchcraft rituals or customs are in the play and nothing satanic. I think the most controversial thing the witch did was bring the cow back to life. The Witch is put in a complicated perspective of being not the good guy, but still having some morals that the other characters lack.

Others: Cinderella’s dad is shown as a drunkard in some versions and though he is never seen drinking, his behavior is that of a drunken person i. e. staggering, slurred speech.

Overall: 2½/5 Almost Child Appropriate: This play is darker than an average Cinderella fairy tale you may read to your child, but is not a completely weird, gory play either. I think the play is appropriate for preteens, but I certainly would not bring an eight year old to a play all but four people die before it ends.

Disclaimer: All plays and musicals are done differently, and the author is not responsible if the play was better than or not as good as the review claims it is as all versions will have different performers, costumes, choreography, etc. If the play or musical did not meet your expectations we apologize in advance.

Books · Plays and Musicals

A Play Review of Pygmalion

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Type: Classic, Comedy

Basic Plot: Henry Higgins, a phonetician, and his friend Colonel Pickering decide to teach a flower girl named Eliza how to be a proper lady in six months, mainly by changing her speech habits.

Quality

Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The plot was unique. Higgins ability to help change a person to such a great extent is very interesting to watch or even read, but if you notice Eliza is still the same person on the inside, no matter how much her speech and manners change. The plot also shows how social status in the late Victorian era effected people and the pros and cons that the different classes brought them.

Setup and Style: 4½/5 Very Well Done: The play showed Eliza at three different stages of her development, so it was a good pace. I think that the play would have even been better as a novel though. It would have been interesting to read about Eliza at all her different stages, but for a play it was a good pace and showed her development appropriately.

I found the dialogue very enjoyable. The style was natural and playful. It was not extremely poetic or completely imaginary like Shakespeare’s work, yet still not realistic in every way. I think it was a good balance, sounding believable and occasionally realistic, but it was more elegant and intelligent then the way people speak as well. There are a lot of humorous things put in the dialogue as well such as sarcasm, the outrageous and ridiculous way Higgins speaks, and the exasperated way his mother and housekeeper speak to him.

Moral: 4/5 Very Good Morals: There are a few morals in the play Pygmalion. The first one is the idea that if given the right environment a person is capable of changing for the better. Though this does not always happen because of the choices a person makes no matter the situation, when given a chance a person that is thought to be destined to become a criminal or always be on welfare can completely change if given help. The second moral has to do with how people treat each other. Eliza is angry at Higgins because of the way he treats her, but in conclusion Higgins says that the important thing is not about how people are treated as much as making sure we treat all people the same. Now I do not completely agree with this idea as we should not treat people badly ever, but it is a good idea to keep in mind that we should not be a “respecter of persons” as the Bible is greatly against “buttering up” people that have a lot of money or are in politics. The last is the idea of building false expectations and having self-respect. Eliza seeks Higgins friendship and affection in a non-romantic way, and to get it she does things that were unexpected of her so that he will like her more. Though Higgins thinks of her as a friend, because he does not meet the standard that Eliza expects or thank her for what she does for him, she gets angry at him for not keep up to her expectations. In the end Higgins says that he finds he admires her more she has self-respect and is friendly just because she chooses rather than trying to buy friendship with servitude. He clearly explains it when he says, “No use slaving for me and then saying you want to be cared for: who cares for a slave?”

Overall: 4/5 Well Done: I really liked this play and think it is a very good piece of literature or theater. I like the style of the dialogue the different things it shows about social class, and the several morals that one can find in it. The play is also very funny and is good just for entertainment. I think teenagers and adults would appreciate it best, but an intelligent child younger than thirteen may also enjoy it as well.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: When Higgins takes Eliza’s speech down, it is lightly suggested that she thinks he will report her for prostitution. The phrase is “molestation by young woman” is used when a man is saying Eliza was not trying to do anything immoral. Though it is not shown, it is mentioned that Eliza’s clothes were all burnt except for her hat. Her father suggests taking her home but says he can’t because of this. He also has lived with multiple women (not at the same time) without marrying them, though he wants to marry one. Eliza’s father also reveals that if they had wanted Eliza for immoral reasons he would have let them have her for some money.

Violence: 1/5 Non-Descriptive, Spoken Violence: Eliza thinks a Higgins will hit her, but he doesn’t. Higgins threatens Eliza when she considers selling his information to other people. Verbally violence and injury is mentioned and sometimes threatened, though mainly threatened for humorous reasons. No violence happens in the play.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 3½/5 Multiple forms of “damn” and “devil” are misused at least fifteen times each. “Bloody” is misused twice. The alternate term for donkey used to swear once. “Slut” is used once. Forms of God’s name are taken in vain thirteen times.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 0/5

Religious Issues: 1/5 In the play phrases like “purgatory” and such are used as descriptions, though they are not used in there original meaning. There are references of church positions that are related to the Anglican Church such as the bishop and clergyman. A church is hinted to be Lutheran or Catholic by its name.

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: It mentions several times that Eliza’s father drinks, and it is said how her aunt also drank, especially gin when she was ill. No drinking is shown in the play. Higgins asks Eliza if she wants champagne. Some men wear smoking jackets (jackets that men had to where when they smoked) but it never says they are smoking. Eliza is afraid that drugs have been put in her chocolate.

Overall: 3/5 Almost Teenage Appropriate: There is a lot more swearing than I would prefer in this play and the suggestiveness is not overflowing, but still enough to be a small problem. I think it is age appropriate for teenagers that are at least fifteen or sixteen and older.

Disclaimer: All plays and musicals are done differently, and the author is not responsible if the play was better than or not as good as the review claims it is as all versions will have different performers, costumes, choreography, etc. If the play or musical did not meet your expectations we apologize in advance.

Also this review does not include commentary, forwards, or afterwords any version may have. It does not include the a review the prologue or epilogue that a special version may have.