Into the Woods

There are so many movies out right now that I’m dying to see. I had planned to visit the theatre and indulge more than once over the holidays, but with one thing and another, it didn’t happen. However, I did take Nathan (11) and Kaitlyn (9) to see “Into the Woods” yesterday.

Knowing how complicated Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics can sometimes be, I wondered if they would be able to follow the story and not be bored. I certainly wasn’t bored. I’ve never seen the Broadway musical. Didn’t really even know that much about it, other than it was written by Sondheim, and that it had quite the long run on Broadway.

If you love musicals, as I do, you will love this one. The lyrics are delicious and definitely keep you on your toes. It intertwines the lives of a baker and his wife, who desperately want a child, with a witch who lives next door. Unbeknownst to them, the witch had placed a curse on the baker’s parents when he was a child, because the baker’s father (also a baker) had stolen greens and veggies from her garden. Also part of the story are the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Somehow, the baker and his wife must gather four items from each of these characters to give to the witch so that she can remove the curse.

The casting is superb, starting with the wonderful Meryl Streep as the witch. She tears up the scenery with her performance and has two showcase songs that she performs beautifully. The baker is played by an actor who I hadn’t heard of before, James Corden. He is kind of hapless, and wouldn’t get far without his take-charge, but gentle, wife, played by Emily Blunt. Cinderella is played by Anna Kendrick. Chris Pine makes a perfect Prince Charming who can sometimes be not-quite-so charming. Christine Baranski is Cinderella’s stepmother. Her scenes with the two step-sisters are too funny. Tracey Ullmann plays Jack’s mother. It was nice to see her again in a role that suited her to a tee.

Johnny Depp is a perfect Big Bad Wolf. A little too perfect, in my opinion. The song he sings is creepy, and brings to mind child molestation. I’m sure I’m not the only person viewing it who has had the same feeling. The play was first performed in 1987, and maybe that particular song didn’t have the same connotations that it does now, but for my part they could have left that one out. I was very uncomfortable listening to it.

All of the actors do their own singing, and they sing wonderfully. The most classically trained is Anna Kendrick, which was a surprise. She is best known for her role in the Twilight Saga movies, but she was also nominated for a Tony for her work in “High Society.” Emily Blunt who was not known for her singing abilities has a lovely voice. My favorite was Lilla Crawford who played Little Red Riding Hood. She was droll and funny and held her own against Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf. She’s an actress to watch for. This was her first feature film.

In the movie theatre, I just happened to be seated by a woman who was obviously enjoying it as much as I was. After the credits rolled, I asked her if she had ever seen the musical on stage. She not only had seen it numerous times, but she had also acted in it in local productions as the witch and the baker’s wife! That was her second viewing of the movie. She said that it was very good, and they had only cut a small part. It was long, over two hours. It was a nice little bonus chatting with her.

So, I’m sure you get the idea that I loved the movie, but I was still a little concerned that the kids were bored with it. I think Kaitlyn was a little bit during a couple of the longer numbers, but Nathan gave it two thumbs up. He looked a little surprised when I asked him if he liked it. Grammy, he said, I never thought I would say this, but it just replaced “Frozen” as my number two movie of all time. Number one is Big Hero Six. Now you can’t get much higher praise than that.

See you soon,

Susan