As I am writing this, the new movie adaption of Stephen Sonheim’s musical “Into The Woods” is screening in America, with the UK release in just under a fortnight.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview screening at BAFTA house earlier this month and we made a bit of an evening of it, with dinner and drinks too (well, at BAFTA house, it’d be rude not to!!)
Upon sitting down in the screen I was a bit nervous – I know the musical very very well, having performed in it a few years ago, and was nervous as to what might have been cut and changed for the movie adaption – It is such a beautiful and clever piece, I would have been sorely disappointed if any of my favourite bits had been cut or moved around to make it more child-friendly or disney-fied. Happily, I needn’t have been nervous, the movie is fantastic and sticks very closely to the original, particularly the first half (the equivalent of the first act of the musical) – It is magical, musical and performed beautifully.
For those who don’t know, Into The Woods starts with some of our old favourite fairy tales, the Witch and a childless couple. The witch tells the couple that she has cast a spell on their house “That your family tree will always be a barren one”, and they can only break the spell and have a child by getting her “The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn and the slipper as pure as gold”, cue Jack and Milky White (Jack and the Beanstalk), Little Red and Granny (Little Red Riding Hood), Rapunzel and her prince (Rapunzel) and Cinderella and her wicked step-mother and step-sisters (Cinderella).
The couple have 3 midnights to get the items for the witch, to break the curse.
I won’t give away the plot (you’ll have to go and see it to see what happens), but the show is full of some beautiful songs, a magical transformation, giants, magic beans, and everyone coming together to fight an inevitable evil. Trust me, its very very clever and a really great story.
In the movie adaptation, Meryl Streep plays the Witch, and is nothing short of a revelation – I knew she was a phenomenal actress but to make me cry with one phrase of singing (from a woman, I didn’t know could sing, but definitely can) is something else. The childless couple, the Baker and the Baker’s Wife are played by James Cordon and Emily Blunt. I was expecting James Cordon to put a little too much comedy into the role but in reflection, I really liked what he did with the role and how he made the Baker a very likeable and approachable character. Emily Blunt was my highlight of the film, I think. She portrayed the baker’s wife in such as way that made you empathise with her from the very start – she’s just a woman who wants a baby and to live a happy life with her husband, and what happens along the way she just takes on the chin and carries on. She is feisty, capable, and you really grow to care about her. Her role, the Baker’s Wife, is the role I played a few years ago, and I think I was expecting to be very picky about what she did with the part, as I know it so well – but what she did with it was fantastic, a really brilliant interpretation.
Other highlights for me were Johnny Depp as the Wolf, who managed to be creepy without being too much; Chris Pine and Billy Magnussun as the two gorgeous princes, particularly in the song “Agony” which was nothing short of hilarious; Lilla Crawford as Little Red, who was mischievous and humble in just the right places; Daniel Huttlestone as Jack, who very nearly steals the show with “Giants in the Sky” and is absolutely phenomenal (though we already know he is very very good from his portrayal of Gavroche in the movie adaptation of Les Miserables in 2012); and my final highlight, and a bit of a surprise to me was Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. Her casting was the only one I heard about and thought it was a bit odd. I never saw her as a Cinderella and everyone else being cast seemed to fit the roles so well in my mind, so I think I almost expected her to not be very good in the role. However, I am more than happy to say I had to eat my words after seeing her portrayal of Cinderella. She managed to be witty and vulnerable, as well as very clever, all in the right balance an I think she did a great job with a very tricky part to get right!
All in all, I think it is a fantastic film adaption of an incredible musical. I loved it. Obviously, mine is only an opinion, but I would really recommend going to see it and seeing what you make of it yourself.
It was a really special opportunity to head on down to BAFTA house and see a cheeky preview (and a lovely dinner too!) and I can’t wait to go again when it finally comes out here in the UK on January 9th!
To see a trailer for the film, see here