Thursday, January 01, 2015

"Into The Woods" - Some Thoughts After Seeing The Disney Film Version

For me, "Into The Woods" the classic Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musicalhas been an acquired taste.  You might say that it has taken me several years to move beyond not seeing the forest for the trees.  My first encounter with the stage version of the musical took place in LA when I attended a performance of the first national tour of the show at the Pantages Theater.  I left the show unmoved and unimpressed.

In the years that have intervened since my first tentative foray into those dark woods, I have come to develop a deeper appreciation for the genius of Stephen Sondheim - his intricate lyrics and complex melodies and harmonies that one does not learn to hum until several exposures to their unusual configurations.  Now I can't get his songs out of my mind and I find myself humming them all of the time.

A significant step in my learning to appreciate Mr. Sondheim's idiosyncratic aesthetic was reading the two volumes that he wrote about how he creates his works of art: "Finishing The Hat" and "I Finished the Hat."  I took another giant leap forward deeper into the mysterious woods of Sondheim Land in 2014 when I saw the luminous production of "Into The Woods" presented by Spiro Veloudos' and his Lyric Stage Company of Boston.  I found myself not only entertained but deeply moved by this telling of the mash-up stew of fairy tales.

So, I had been primed to appreciate what Disney might do with translating the classic musical to the big screen.  I saw the film a few days ago and loved it.  Loved it!  I will not bore you with a rehash of the plot, for if you have read this far, you probably already have some appreciation for the show.  Ms. Streep is a revelation as the witch.  Rapunzel's Prince (Billy Magnussen)  and Cinderella's Prince (Chris Pine) are a hoot, especially in their duet "Agony," "charmingly" staged in and around a waterfall.  The cinematography of Dion Beebe is breathtakingly beautiful, and the direction of Rob Marshall is appropriately both dark and whimsical.  Johnny Depp is his usual outre self as the Wolf. Daniel Huttelstone has made the leap from the wooden barricades of "Les Miserables" to the leafy environs of these woods to portray Jack, whose beanstalk is a central element of this complex set of stories.  His rendition of "Giants In The Sky" is a highlight.  Other moving musical moments in the film are "You Are Not Alone" and "Children Will Listen."

I plan to go back and see the film again while it is still in theaters. It comes with two strong White Rhino Hooves Up!  And be assured that if you go and see it and like it, you are not alone in your approbation!



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