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Into the Woods

Into the Woods and Fairytales: The Stories of Our Lives

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales.
If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”
Albert Einstein

Storytelling is at the heart of the human experience, and few stories have had a wider reach over the last few millennia than fairytales. Fairytales are so ubiquitous that many people may not even remember the first time they heard the words “Once upon a time.” But what makes them so potent? According to storyteller Laura Packer, fairytales “are a shortcut to a common understanding of the way the world works.” Fairytales provide us with a map of how to navigate this tricky and terrifying world, with their straightforward structure, archetypal characters, and clear morals. These qualities are make them ripe for adaptation.

A Musical Interweaving of Fantasy and Realty

"Into the Woods" was not the first musical to draw inspiration from fairytales, but it might be the most all-encompassing. Librettist James Lapine and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim pull from a deep well of characters and combine them for one, dramatically unified story, from Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood to Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. The characters’ respective journeys may feel familiar – Cinderella will inevitably lose her slipper after sneaking out to dance at a ball, and Jack will, of course, find more than he bargained for at the top of a magical beanstalk – but Lapine and Sondheim find clever and exciting ways to interweave them. Into the Woods lives both in the realm of fantasy and in the human experience.

Entertainment and More

By the time "Into the Woods" opened on Broadway in 1987, Sondheim had made a career out of crafting emotionally intelligent, unapologetically adult musicals that sought to be more than mere entertainment, as seen in works as varied as "Sweeney Todd," "Company" and "Sunday in the Park with George." This musical is no different. By directly tackling what comes after “happily ever after,” intergenerational trauma, and the ways we hurt each other, "Into the Woods" turns the fairytale framework into a meditation about what it means to be alive.

No One is Alone

Fairytales, as Packer writes, are “the stories of our lives in their most stripped down form.” "Into the Woods" is about all of us, our hopes, our fears, our grief – individual and collective. As such, it’s always a good time to escape into the woods and to spend some time with these characters, to confront our inner witches and giants. But for audiences at the University of Idaho, less than six months after Sondheim’s death and over two years into a catastrophic pandemic, this musical promises to feel especially powerful. Among many other things, "Into the Woods" is about community. As we work together to build the future we hope to see for ourselves and our children, we can’t afford to forget the universal truth at the heart of this musical: no one is alone. Like all of the wisdom in our folklore, it’s as true in 2022 as it was a thousand years ago.

Article by Elliott Folds, Master of Fine Arts candidate

Department of Theatre Arts

Published April 2022

Into the Woods

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by James Lapine

Directed by David Lee-Painter

Suggested for ages 11 and up.

View program.

Performance dates & times

  • 7:30 p.m., April 29, 30, May 7
  • 2:00 p.m., April 30, May 1, 8


  • Free for U of I students. Order here.
  • General Public
    • $10 for non-U of I students
    • $17 for U of I employees & seniors (55 & better) & military
    • $22 for general public
    • Purchase tickets.


Hartung Theater, 625 Stadium Drive, Moscow

Parking is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends along Stadium Drive and in the lot across from Hartung Theatre.

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119