Author: Becca Vaclavik

What if ‘happily ever after’ isn’t so happy after all?

In the Tony Award-winning musical “Into the Woods,” famous storybook characters come to life on stage. Set to an iconic Stephen Sondheim score, a childless baker and his wife venture into a forest to reverse an evil witch’s spell that prevents them from becoming parents. Along the way, they run into Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack (of beanstalk fame) and other fairy tale characters who are also pursuing their hearts’ greatest desires. And, of course, everyone gets their happily ever after—at the end of the first act, at least.

In the second act, the musical explores the consequences of a romanticized “ever after” and the complicated truth behind getting exactly what you wish for. Balancing bawdy humor with poignant sincerity, the plot touches everything from infidelity to neglectful parenting to the early stages of grief. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll want to call your mom and tell her you love her. (Trust us on this last point!)

“It takes the audience on a ride they might not have anticipated,” says Associate Chair and Director of Theatre Markas Henry.

Theatre professor and director Bud Coleman also appreciates the unique adaptation of classic fairy tales.

“One of the many things I love about ‘Into the Woods’ is the way that James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim take familiar tales and combine these stories into one big story,” said Coleman. “Fairy tales offer a brief outline of what to expect in life—both the good and the bad.”

While those brief outlines might have roots that reach back hundreds of years, Coleman says the lessons continue to be relevant. “In our interconnected world, I think it is great to be reminded that ‘no one is alone,’ and that even our dreams (our wishes) can have far ranging implications past what we can imagine.”

To be clear, “Into the Woods” is a better match for date night than family night. (In fact, Music Theatre International gives it a PG-13 rating.) But if you have loaded your Netflix queue with episodes of “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm,” or if you enjoy dark, funny takes on childhood classics—I’m looking at you, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” fans—or if you’re simply a huge fan of Sondheim, this production from the CU Department of Theatre & Dance is an absolute must-see.

“Into the Woods” runs Feb. 22-March 3 in the University Theatre. Tickets start at $24.