I wish she had talked to me. I have been thinking about it ever since she posted, and I thought I would share my opinion on the matter. (Mostly, because I'm struggling with writer's block and this was what I came up with.)
For those of you who have never seen Into the Woods, it is the story of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and everyone else that factors in to any of those stories. By the end of Act I everyone had achieved their happy ending-- some by wishing and some by working.
As Act II opens, everyone is dealing with the quirks of happily ever after, but overall, enjoying the ride. Then, life happens. This, I think is where my opinion differs from others. Life, in Into the Woods, is interpreted as a vengeful giant coupled with some infidelity and cowardice. But here's the thing: I don't think that the writers were trying to say that infidelity is inevitable, or that marriage is a sham or anything like that. I just think that a trial like infidelity and a giant is easier to portray in such a circumstance than cancer or unemployment or earthquakes. I think that the writers were trying to say that life happens. That there are consequences to our actions. And what really matters is not what those problems are specifically, but how we handle them. Do we run away and hide? Do we abandon our loved ones to their doom? Or do we stand up for what we believe in and fight?
By the end of Act II the characters have chosen their paths. And near the end of the musical, when everyone is done deciding, when things look the worst, comes one of my very favorite songs:
People make mistakes.
People make mistakes,
Holding to their own,
Thinking their alone.
Honor their mistakes
Fight for their mistakes
One another's terrible mistakes.
Witches can be right, Giants can be good.
You decide what's right you decide what's good
Someone is on your side
Someone else is not
While we're seeing our side
Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.
Hard to see the light now.
Just don't let it go
Things will come out right now.
We can make it so.
Someone is on your side, no one is alone.
(this is the best video of it I could find)
So, really the second half of the musical really isn't a cynical outlook on life. It is a reminder that even after the worst has happened, that there are still those who love us and will stand beside us. That even when life doesn't turn out the way you plan, (and let's be honest, when does it?) it is still possible to overcome those trials and find another way to live and be happy. And overall, it is a reminder that no on is ever alone.