For those who don't know, Into the Woods is a musical originally written for the stage by Stephen Sondheim (he of Sweeney Todd fame) and James Lapine which has recently been turned into a movie starring the likes of Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Emily Blunt with support from Johnny Depp, Chris Pine and that kid who played Gavroche in the movie of Les Mis. In it the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk are tied together by the (invented) tale of the baker and his wife who must undo a curse in order to have a child. To undo the curse they have to find four things, and to find the things they must go into the woods...
The woods are such a big theme in fairytales that it seems the obvious setting. They represent fear, the loss of innocence, the unknown, losing things, finding things, self doubt, self knowledge, the list goes on and on. The woods in this movie are the setting for all of this and more as the fairytales have been adhered to in truly Grimmian style, ugly stepsisters being blinded by birds and all.
Visually Into the Woods is stunning, primarily set against a dark and often bleak backdrop with splashes of colour illuminating the magic. Personally I really liked the way that a lot of the effects were done in a very theatre way, for example Johnny Depp's wolf is just Johnny Depp in a wolfish kind of costume rather than a CG wolf. One of my favourite things about fairytales is how the magic is rooted very firmly in a familiar world and the theatricality that the film held onto made the feeling that although these magical things were happening, actually they could just as easily be happening to me very much stronger.
And let's talk about the cast! Musically (and lyrically) Sondheim's work is difficult to learn and to perform well. This is my third Sondheim experience, behind Sweeney Todd (film and stage), and Assassins (stage) and although a lot of Sondheim fans have said that they disliked the cuts that were made from stage to film I have to say that when we watched the DVD we have of the stage show I fell asleep due to sheer length, so in my mind any cuts were for the better! There's always a hell of a lot going on and you do have to pay attention to the lyrics to get what they're singing about. Going into this I was slightly concerned about everyone except Johnny Depp and Anna Kendrick. Don't get me wrong,Meryl Streep is an incredible actress and I love Mamma Mia but nobody in that film really blew me away with their outstanding vocals and it's not particularly challenging singing, but I needn't have worried. Honestly there wasn't a weak link in sight!
Personal favourite moments include Johnny Depp's creepy creepy creepy rendition of Hello Little Girl, Meryl Streep's awesome performance of Children Will Listen and James Corden and Emily Blunt's duet of It Takes Two. I also thought Lilla Crawford who plays Red Riding Hood was incredible and hilarious and just played the part extremely well. Ohohoh and that song where they're all blaming each other. Awesome.
If you haven't seen it yet and need convincing, here's the trailer.
Fairytale Fridays is about to become a two weekly link up, the next one will be June 12th! Link up your posts for this week here.