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Into the Woods: a review


Like many people, I have been waiting nervously to see what Disney Studios would do with Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful musical, “Into the Woods.” I saw this show on Broadway with the original cast, so I was braced for a disappointment.

But I was not disappointed. It is lush, it is beautiful, and not only was Meryl Streep absolutely stunning as the witch, she easily outsings Bernadette Peters, the witch in the original Broadway cast. I believe this film is destined to be a classic.

It would quibbling to try to find any fault with the production. The visuals are gorgeous. The snappy editing holds our attention. The special effects support the magic but never go overboard. I will quibble some about the singing.

Meryl Streep was flawless. To me, the high point of the film is her version of “Stay With Me.” I still believe that Daniel Huttlestone is a little too young for the role of Jack, but he sang Jack superbly. Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood was very disappointing and comes nowhere close to Danielle Ferland’s performance with the original cast. Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mother was a disappointment, compared with Barbara Byrne with the original cast. Johnny Depp surprised me. He was a perfectly fine wolf. Chris Pine was a little over the top as Cinderella’s prince, but at least he was clearly having a good time.

The last few movies I’ve gone out to see have all been in IMAX. “Into the Woods” was not released in IMAX. The sound seemed thin by comparison. Even compared with my home stereo system, the sound seemed thin. The orchestra did not sound as lush and Stephen Sondheim said it would in some promotional videos.

It puzzles me why people take children to see “Into the Woods.” It’s a fairy tale for adults. Both the music and the tales will go over the heads of most children, though children who are musically gifted will probably think they’re in heaven. Sondheim requires some musical sophistication.

Some readers might wonder whether this musical inspired the name of this blog. Not really. I named the blog “Into the Woods” for the same reason Sondheim chose the name — because it’s such a powerful metaphor for bravely facing our existential predicaments. Some people think the answers to their existential questions are to be found, say, in a church. Screw church, and the warhorse it rode in on. Brave folks go into the woods. After dark. Alone.

One Comment

  1. Diana wrote:

    I Love the comment
    “Screw church, and the warhorse it rode in on. Brave folks go into the woods. After dark. Alone.” ABSOLUTELY!

    And now I will have to buy the Blu-Ray and watch this!

    Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

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