There are always wolves

I shouldn’t have played the wolf.

That’s not modesty (false or otherwise) on my part, but the truth.  I played Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods and traditionally, the role of the Wolf is doubled by the actor playing Cinderella’s Prince (older brother to the prince I played).  Certain other characters are traditionally doubled in the show, but as it happened, this was the only doubling in our production.  There are many reasons why the original doubling is preserved.  The biggest of them is probably that Cinderella’s Prince doesn’t make an appearance until after the Wolf has been done away with, whereas Rapunzel’s Prince has a scene between the Wolf’s two appearances on stage, making the costume change issue more complicated.  This would also leave the prince’s steward free to double the role, and indeed this was originally mooted for us.

However, having the steward take on lupine duty takes away from some of the intricacy of the show, for the princes are compared to wolves as the evening progresses.  For the princes in Into the Woods are not the paragons of decency and virtue that they tend to be seen as.  During the first act, they declare their devotion for Rapunzel and Cinderella, going to great lengths to win these beauties.  However, it is clear from their duet ‘Agony’ that the principal attraction of these two ladies is that they are unattainable : “What’s as intriguing or half as fatiguing as what’s out of reach?”  And once they have won their prizes, they continue to pursue out-of-reach women, particularly Cinderella’s Prince, who confesses he “was raised to be charming, not sincere.”  These men are predators, just as the Wolf is, and just as the Wolf needs to eat, there is some level on which the princes need to seek for more.  Whether instinct or deliberate action, these charming princes have little to commend them in the end.

Despite the early exit of the lupine character, wolves are a recurring theme throughout the show, frequently referred to in spoken lines and lyrics.  Jack’s Mother warns him that his daydreaming will “never keep the wolves away.”  The entire cast warns that when you go into the woods “you may encounter wolves” and you should “mind the wolf.”  When Red Riding Hood protests that killing a wolf is not as bad as killing a person, the Witch retorts that she should “ask a wolf’s mother” whether that is true.  Intriguingly, although doubling the Wolf with Cinderella’s Prince underscores aspects of the latter character, the change in our production made one line more resonant than it usually is.  Disappointed to learn of Rapunzel’s liaison with her Prince, the Witch sings “Princes wait there in the world, it’s true. / Princes, yes, but wolves and humans too.”  In this case, prince and wolf were one and the same (not that everyone in the audience, even those who knew me, knew this).

So I shouldn’t have played the wolf.  My very good friend who played the other prince should have.  But playing the wolf added an extra layer to Sondheim and Lapine’s intricately constructed show, where nothing is random and everything means something.  As the cast note in the finale “there are always wolves”, and some of them may well be the alter egos of the world’s charming princes.

    • Trish
    • April 15th, 2011

    I feel sorry for Cinderella. First of all she has to spend all her time doing housework and cleaning out fireplaces and then she ends up with a rascal of a husband. Just because she is pretty.

    On the other hand when you think about it, the story of Cinderella and other fairy stories do give out the message that if you are a beautiful girl you will also be kind and virtuous and that if you are a plain girl you will be jealous and horrible. Which is obviously not true.

    Maybe there should be another version of Cinderella where the older sisters are beautiful and Cinderella is plain.

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