by Sara Elrick

Cinderella, Rapunzel, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, and Prince Charming are family-favorite fairytale characters everyone thinks they know everything about. However, once these characters come together in the musical “Into the Woods,” what people think they know about these characters will be turned upside down.

Little Red in “Into the Woods” (photo courtesy of UNW Theatre facebook page).

“Into the Woods,” originally adapted by Stephen Sondheim from James Lapines’ book, “Into the Woods,” is coming to the University of Northwestern—St. Paul. While the musical tells the tales of beloved fairytale characters, nothing turns out the way the movies depict. This story intricately weaves fairytales together, taking its readers and viewers through a woods filled with twists and turns. “Into the Woods” focuses on life’s consequences when people try to get what they want. This musical shows what happens after the “happily ever after.”

“This musical portrays real problems people face,” said Tommy McCarthy, who has the role of the Baker. “It isn’t all about happy endings. This musical is one that I think many adults will be able to connect with.”

McCarthy said that the first act involves many of the fairytale endings that have been shown in children’s movies and storybooks, but the second act shows what happens after the end credits and after the books have been closed.

McCarthy said the themes are aimed more toward adults. They include things that aren’t easily grasped or comprehended by children. Some viewers may deem these themes almost inappropriate, but for the first time in UNW’s theater department, the cast of the show has written a note to explain why this story needs to be told.

“This musical is one that I think many adults will be able to connect with.” – Tommy McCarthy

From the Cast Note: “Once upon a time, we were all children, starry-eyed princes and princesses, and then somewhere in the process of growing up, we stopped believing in the fairytales. … Into the Woods, reminiscent of many classic fairytales, reminds us of their original intent: to entertain children, but also to teach children how to make choices. … Life is a maturing process; we are never fully grown up. Into the Woods is a story worth telling because it reminds us not to sugarcoat reality as we teach our children to walk through life.”

UNW’s theater department did this show 11 years ago. The director of this year’s adaptation, Jennifer Hunter, is thrilled to run this show, especially because she has the opportunity to add her own twist.

Photo courtesy of UNW Theatre facebook page.

“’Into the Woods’ is done so often, so I was thinking, ‘what can I do to make this new without taking away from the genius of Stephen Sondheim?’” said Hunter.  “The vision for this staging of “Into the Woods” may be unlike any you’ve seen before: the creative possibilities seemed endless once we started.  The ensemble structure of the musical, the particular voices and talent of our students and the age and journey our actors are encountering make “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim the perfect fit for our UNW theater season.”

Hunter chose not to release the big twist she has added to this production. She has decided to leave it a a surprise for the viewers.

“Don’t come to this musical expecting to know exactly how it turns out,” said Maggie Benham, who plays Rapunzel. “The story may not end the way you think it will, even if you’ve seen the movie adaptation.”

“Into the Woods” runs Oct. 28-29, and Nov. 3-5. All shows are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now and can be purchased online at or at the ticket office in Maranatha Hall.

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