Into the Woods,
directed by Rob Marshall
(Walt Disney, 2014)

I have resisted for a few years now watching the movie version of Into the Woods, primarily because it's already been done so well. The 1991 stage production, so artfully captured on film and released through the American Playhouse series, is a masterful version of the musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and I never saw much reason to watch a different version.

I finally watched it. And my verdict is ... it's good.

But I'll probably never watch it again.

First let me say, I have nothing but praise for this adaptation. The great songs are there, the stories are lovingly woven together, and the cast is phenomenal.

Foremost among them are Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, James Corden as the baker, Emily Blunt as the baker's wife and Meryl Streep as the witch.

Others include Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood, Johnny Depp (very briefly) as the Big Bad Wolf, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack, Tracey Ullman as Jack's mother, Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel, and Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen as the charming princes.

If you've never experienced Into the Woods, you'll love this version. The story is clever and funny and sad and wonderful. The songs are memorable, often very emotional, and several will stick in your head long after the credits role.

The reason I won't watch it again is, there's no reason to. I already own and love a great version of this musical; this new adaptation adds special effects and realistic scenery while losing several good songs and some key plot twists.

And, as good as this cast is, it's hard to beat Chip Zien and Joanna Gleason, Ben Wright and Danielle Ferland, Kim Crosby and Pamela Winslow, Robert Westenberg and Chuck Wagner, and the best of them all, Bernadette Peters as the witch. Wow. The original Broadway cast is perfect, and special effects and scenery aren't enough of a reason to trade them away.

review by
Tom Knapp

29 July 2017

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