He is never seen onstage, but when a ragtag crop of fairy-tale characters in Broadway's Into the Woods venture, well, into the woods, the giant with the booming voice at the top of the beanstalk becomes a furious force. So what better symbol of the new Stephen Sondheim musical than the giant's none-too-delicate boot? Fifty-five days after the idea first struck the show's producers, sculptor Ann Slavit's 42-foot Giant's Leg dangled ominously above the Martin Beck Theatre marquee.

For Slavit, 39, the vinyl-fabric, air filled sculpture is just the latest triumph in a career dedicated to "creating art where you least expect it." In 1978, in a playful comment on sexual stereotypes, she decorated New York's Museum of Contemporary Crafts with a 58-foot pair of woman's legs, named Delia Street after Perry Mason's high-heeled secretary. Last year the street-savvy neighborhood of the Brooklyn Academy of Music was enlivened by The Red Shoes, 30-foot red vinyl ballet slippers built, Ann wryly notes, "to withstand bullet holes."

Though raised in Binghamton, N.Y., a big shoemaking town, Slavit calls her obsession with legs and toes "unintentional." She traces her delight in large-scale enterprises to her childhood, when she helped her father trim the windows of a local children's shop.

Now living in New York City with her husband, Joe Gordon, 35, editor of a health journal, Ann thinks of her Broadway debut as "a dream—I go around the block and think it's not going to be there when I return." But it will be. Into the Woods is the season's box office smash, and people get such a kick out of Slavit's sculpture that they're toeing the ticket line. The boot "is a crowd-stopper," declares Into the Woods's co-producer Heidi Landesman. "It makes people want to see the show."