The true meaning of ‘happily ever after’

by Lenise Willis

Cinderella marries the prince and the honeymoon period never ends. Jack steals from a giant without consequence. Rapunzel is set free by her knight in shining armor. And everyone lives happily ever after. Or so they’ve come to after the tales have been altered over time.

Since they were originally penned in 1812 Germany, many of our classic fairy tales have been adapted to be more kid friendly, often losing the violent or sexual details from the Brothers Grimm, as well as the scare-you-into-avoiding-trouble morals.

Giving these classic happily ever-afters their gruesome details and real-life lessons back is the darkly comical musical Into the Woods by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, which The Drama Center of City Ar ts will tackle next week.

“Everybody knows the fairy tales, but not exactly everybody knows the morals of them””the original morals””they just know the Disney parts,” said Rosina Whitfield, director. “But this tells the original morals of the fairy tales. It also has a twist to it because it has a plotline, so (the characters) all twist together as if they were all in the same universe.”

Matt Turner Adams, 23, is playing the part of the Baker, the main protagonist who goes through an immense amount of struggle to collect items for a witch, so that he and his wife can be blessed with a child.

“Sondheim is iconic when it comes to musical theatre, and the opportunity to do a Sondheim show doesn’t come along everyday,” Adams said about what drew him to the play. “It’s difficult and I think that’s part of the reason (I like it). It’s not an easy show; you have to work at it.”

Sondheim, the composer and lyricist for the show, is known for writing musically intricate compositions. A full orchestra, with 12 local musicians, will complement the Drama Center’s production to bring Sondheim’s beautiful work to life.

“The music is just gorgeous,” Adams said. “There are very few musicals where you can just sit and listen to the orchestra play and be very happy with what you’re hearing, and Into the Woods is one of those.”

Beautiful music aside, what truly sets the musical apart is its unique and refreshing take on what’s become known as Disney classics””fluffy children’s stories.

The heroes of Into the Woods don’t simply live happily and naively ever after.

“They’re real,” Adams said. “Sondheim has an excellent way of crafting these stories and then directing them to a more realistic ending that makes more sense with what we know (in real life).”

“Original fairy tales were written to scare kids from doing things they weren’t supposed to do,” Whitfield added. “They were gruesome. I mean, Cinderella’s sisters get their feet cut off because they lied about the shoes.”

“The great thing is that during the part where the girls’ eyes get pecked out or where the shoes get bloody, it’s done while singing,” Adams laughed. “It’s meant to be a funny moment””that you’d be so desperate to marry someone that you’d hack off your toes.”

“Because it’s written gruesomely, there’s also a lot of comedy,” added Alec Gallazzi, 15, who’s playing Jack. ” It’s essentially a comedy show””a dark comedy. It balances itself out.”

And since the play is so focused on reallife lessons, it wouldn’t be right if its actors hadn’t learned a thing or two, too.

“I’ve learned what my character (Jack) has learned: Not everything that you want and that you plan to get is ever what ends up happening in your life,” Gallazzi said. “But through everything you learn, there’s an experience you’ll remember forever.”

Gallazzi said he’s also learned a lot as an actor, like how to balance comedy, while simultaneously switching between singing and acting. “I learned that through challenges, you learn much more than you imagined you would.”

Overall, the actors and director agree that the audience can expect to laugh, cry and be a little scared, too.

“The audience gets a unique opportunity to grow along with these characters,” Adams said. “It’s a story you need to break down and talk about. The play brings up a lot of questions and morals that you need to deal with.”

Though it’s a “dark comedy,” Whitfield says there isn’t any adult language or sexuality, making it still appropriate for ages 8 and up. !


The Drama Center of City Arts presents Into the Woods July 10-19 at the Weaver Academy Theatre, 300 S. Spring St., Greensboro. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. For tickets or more information call 335-6426 or visit