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  • Kerry Auer Fergus

Character Study: Rapunzel

There are three major musical motives in Into the Woods: the wish, the beans, and the fanfare. All three play a significant role in the narrative with the result that by the end of the show, practically every character has incorporated all three into his or her musical vocabulary. However, Rapunzel is a notable exception to this rule. Let's take a look at her unusual musical choices and see what we can learn.

Throughout Act I, both onstage and off, Rapunzel can be heard vocalizing to pass the time in her solitary tower. And yet, her entire musical repertoire consists of a single melody, a tune borrowed directly from the bean motive. In fact, throughout the entire show, whenever Rapunzel sings alone she only ever uses this particular melody. From a thematic standpoint, this makes perfect sense. She and the beans are closely linked. Her life was traded as payment for their theft. And yet, perhaps this restriction of her musical material has greater implications.

On the one hand, a lack of musical originality could indicate a two-dimensional character. Perhaps Rapunzel has been so isolated that she has become intellectually and emotionally stunted. The actor who believes Rapunzel’s dearth of musical content indicates a lack of emotional depth might play up the comic aspects of the role.

Or perhaps Rapunzel’s limited musical vocabulary illustrates the extent to which she has been damaged by her isolated life in the woods. In her captivity, she has been denied an identity of her own. This might lead one to a more tragic reading of the character.

In either case, it is important that the actor playing Rapunzel consider the implications of her peculiar musical identity. Through the score one may gain a great deal of insight into the workings of her mind.

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