Stephen Sondheim wrote a ringer in this one. Into the Woods interweaves the classic fairy tales Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood woven together with the tale of the Baker and his wife. The play is an adult fairy tale that not only juxtaposes the stories with our own lives, it explores beyond "happily ever after" in the second act once all the characters have received their wish and now have to live with it.
The story is wonderfully self aware. Characters are often able to notice things that don't make sense and would normally be taken for granted in a fairy tale. There is also an omnipotent narrator who is able to interact with the characters to some extent. The characters eventually decide that they don't like the story he is telling, take matters into their own hands, and sacrifice him to a giant.
The overall result is a story that is very intelligent and very meaningful. The journey is a loss of innocence and growing into the responsibilities we all face as adults. Wishes come with a price, part of which is understanding. Is it better to fully know the dark secrets of the woods or to live in bliss and ignorance on its boundaries?
And you think of all of the things you've seen
And you wish that you could live in between
And you're back again only different than before
Not 'till the sky.
There are Giants in the Sky.
Happy Birthday (July 11): Harold Bloom (b. 1930)
Happy Birthday (July 12) Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)