“Into the woods da dum da dum da dum da something something journey.
Whoops. Didn’t mean to take such a long blogging hiatus. Been in Texas for Christmas, which normally means a few days of sitting around doing nothing (read: lots of time to watch movies and blog). But this time, we took a side trip to San Antonio (took Mom to see The Lion King, Mom took me to a Spurs game), which didn’t leave much idle time. Still movies were watched. I hurried us away from a Christmas Day lunch and rushed Mom to a quick movie before dinner with the fam. I mean c’mon, this theatre kid was not gonna miss seeing this as soon as possible. Judging from how my FB feed was blowing up, most of the rest of my crowd has similar inclinations.
As a show, I’ve got sort of mixed feelings about Into the Woods. I do think it’s a brilliant and deeply layered show. It also has so much sentimental value as it was the first I worked on with my longtime theatre group at MIT (I skipped freshman orientation events in favor of building the set and being on the run crew), and I met a couple of my absolute best friends on that show. But I’m also sort of over it. I did run crew for another production a few years later and saw a couple others along the way. And given how hit or miss movie musicals have been these past few years, I was hesitant.
While the hesitation may have been warranted (there was a lot that could have possibly gone wrong), Rob Marshall (director) and his team pulled it off quite nicely! I thought the casting was pretty perfect, and the staging worked quite well. The staging was kind of a unique situation to translate. On the one hand, the static woods locations could be expanded on, which is always desirable when adapting for the screen. But on the other, it’s a very self contained cast, which can often feel claustrophobic. They seemed to have gotten it right, taking advantage of clever staging opportunities where possible (Agony anyone?) and fleshing out village locations and being able to cut between them (removing much of the prologue confusion). All that worked well enough that on the way home, my mom was questioning me about how it could possibly be pulled off on a stage. I described the two sets I worked with: the one with moving cars of set pieces that broke down by the third week and the brilliantly designed turntable sets from the second time (that designer had also been a victim of the unwieldy previous set).
When you have such clearly defined characters, casting is the most important thing, and I thought each one was perfect. There was a good balance of big names and established stage actors, and they didn’t fall victim to the usual pitfalls of prioritizing star power over vocal ability. I don’t even know where to start, so we’ll just go down the line how they’re listed on IMDB:
Anna Kendrick as Cinderella – This girl can do no wrong in my eyes. I don’t care of she keeps getting type cast in singing roles. She sounds great and adds a great spunk and spark to everything she does.
Daniel Huttlestone as Jack – And while we’re about to go into the discussion I’m about to start, Lilla Crawford as Little Red, it’s so strange seeing age appropriate actors. Strange and good, but takes a little getting used to. Added a whole new dynamic, but I liked it. And both kids were awesome.
James Corden as the Baker – I love him. While I’m very excited for his upcoming late night hosting gig, it bums me out so much that it means he won’t be playing Pseudolus in the hopefully one day soon coming revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (my favorite show). He is exactly what you want in the Baker, such emotion and so relate-able and sweet. And I could listen to that voice forever. While I get why No More was cut (it’s not usually my favorite song anyways), I would have loved to hear him sing it. Still, his crying while the tune was playing was effective.
Emily Blunt – Who knew she could sing? Can she just be in all the musicals now? I’ve always admired her presence and wit, and she took one of my usually least favorite characters in the show and made her the one to watch. So. freaking. Good.
Meryl Streep – We all know I just start gushing incessantly when I talk about her, but once again another fun and masterful performance.
Johnny Depp – Much better suited here than he was as Sweeney, making much out of a playful and small role. Character wise I get what he was going for with the costume, but given the added realism in adapting to film, the wolf did seem a bit out of place.
Chris Pine – Oh man, can he sing more please? What other movie musicals can we cast him in? Srsly, wow! And that mischievous humor that’s been starting to come out of him lately, no really, where else can we put him?
Milky White – It’s just not the same having a real cow. My first low budget milky white will always be my favorite, though that milky white was neither milky nor white.
Then for the more general things, the cuts made sense. The only thing I really missed was the Agony reprise, but given the condensed storyline and the alterations to the conclusion of Rapunzel and her Prince’s storyline, it wouldn’t have made sense. Nothing was too problematic to be unforgivable. Definitely, this was one of the more successful musical adaptations in recent memory.
Into the Woods – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”