Going Beyond the Script
Into the Woods Backdrops and Scenery Perspectives
written by: Melanie Simmons
Stephen Sondheim is a Broadway legend in his own time, celebrated for his brilliant scores, which come together with off-beat books and characters to create memorable and often daring theatrical works. One of his most enduring and, arguably, most audience-accessible works is the beloved musical Into the Woods. Recently brought to life on the big screen by Rob Marshall, this story has found acclaim with audiences worldwide and has garnered nominations across the globe. What better time, then, to take this modern classic back to the stage where it can delight audiences anew! Theatergoers will certainly get lost in Into the Woods’ cleverly-entwined fairy tales, magical themes and darkly-twisted morality. You’ll want only the very best backdrops to usher your actors and audiences alike into the wonderful world of Sondheim.
Act One: The Baker’s House / The Forest
The most enduring character in the musical is, of course, the woods themselves. TheatreWorld has a wide array of backdrops that will bring your vision to life. For Act One, select a bright, lush forest scene to evoke the simplicity and innocence of the characters as they embark on their journeys, unaware of the pitfalls, wonders, and tragedies that lie ahead.
Easy-to-Use 3D Software is a Great Design Tool
Utilizing the Google’s free 3D modeling software program SketchUp Make, we are able to show you some possibilities in adding depth and dimension to your production or staged event using a Header and Leg package with the main backdrop. Many set designers and producers are using 3D software to aid in scenic design and conveying the feel of the stage space to the cast and crew. We at TheatreWorld look forward to assisting you in the concept design of your unique artistic vision with the highest quality scenic backdrop options available.
The additional curtain legs can help bring the forest experience straight into the audience – but why stop there? Get creative! Festoon your house with tree branches and scattered, fragmented lighting to really draw the audience into your production. Swap out the pre-show house music with nature sounds to lull the audience into the same sense of wonder and innocence that fills our characters as the show starts, consequently allowing them to take a journey from their seats as the curtain rises.
Colorful and Whimsical Woods
For a more whimsical take, TheatreWorld also has some forest backdrops with vibrant color. Combine with dappled lighting and bright costuming to give your staging a more animated feel. If you’re looking to really contrast the darkness of Act Two, why not go big and bold in Act One? Mix the pre-show music with the sound of children laughing and playing. Emphasizing the magic and innocence of the show’s opening will make it much more jarring to watch the consequences of the characters’ life choices come (literally!) crashing down on them in Act Two.
The Whimsical Forest backdrop looks like the kind of place where wishes come true. You can practically see Little Red Riding Hood skipping to grandma’s cottage with her basket full of bread—but watch out! Those sprawling trees cast the kind of shadows that can hide a hungry wolf. (Or a determined baker and his wife plotting to “borrow” Red’s cape.)
Act Two: The Woods
The turn towards a darker, more ominous tone is unmistakable. We quickly and obviously depart from the “happily ever after” note that Act One ends on. Beloved fairy tale heroes Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and Red Riding Hood are pushed off the pages of their happy, familiar stories, forcing them to grow up accordingly. Reality also sets in on the Baker and his Wife. (Who we’ve come to love despite the chaos they helped cause in Act One.) Everyone has gotten their heart’s desire…but at what cost?
Obviously, you’ll want to tread off the beaten path for Act Two, which is why TheatreWorld offers plenty of darker backdrop options. Mirror the uncharted territory the characters find themselves in with bold backdrop choices. Dappled lighting in cool tones can turn the bright costumes from Act One into something more sardonic. These are just the type of woods where seemingly-friendly wolves turn into hungry predators, witches weave their wicked plots and giants lurk, seeking revenge.
TheatreWorld offers gloomy night versions of both the standard day woods scenes and the more whimsical woods drops. You can either match the style of drops you used in Act One, or, conversely, mix and match styles for even more contrast in Act Two. The tone of the show changes boldly during intermission. Don’t be afraid to make the most of it! Instead of chirpy birds and laughing children, choose a soundtrack of creaking branches and hooting owls to reflect a darker, scarier forest, as a result. Setting the mood right as the audience comes back from enjoying their refreshments will elevate that audience-participation feel.
We love how these drops feel spooky, but still fairy-tale-like. They have a dreamy quality that feels at odds with the tragedies that unfold in the second half of Woods. Blue and purple hues and amber backlighting will make your actors pop against this backdrop, while drawing the audience further into the story.
Magenta and amber lighting would really stand out against this backdrop and legs set. Similarly, Red Riding Hood’s cape would contrast the gloomy trunks and the newly-transformed witch would look stunning standing tall amongst the trees.
Finale: “I Wish…”
Into the Woods is a tale of leaving childhood behind, but never abandoning hope; of parting from illusion without losing sight of your dreams; of embracing the wonder of youth while moving into a future where things might not look exactly as you expected, but the sun still rises every morning.
Even though the characters have left their classic happy-endings long behind by the end of the show, Into the Woods ends on a hopeful note. What better way to capture that ray of hope than with a stunning sunrise woods backdrop? Finally, Sondheim and Lapine cleverly balance the weighty messages of Act Two with an inspiring finale, capped off with one final “I Wish…”
Don’t let your “I wish” be “I wish we’d chosen bolder backdrops!” TheatreWorld’s endless possibilities will bring your own unique vision for Into the Woods to life. Our Signature Series of backdrops and designs will help give your audiences an experience they’ll never forget. Click on chat or call us today to see how we can complement your production.