Into the Woods
Yes! They nailed it! Meryl Streep replaces Bernadette Peters as the witch, Emily Blunt is the baker’s wife, Anna Kendrick is Cinderella, and Johnny Depp is the pedophile Big Bad Wolf. (Yes, a pedophile in a Disney movie!) The other names are not as familiar, but everyone can sing well.
Is there any goddam thing Meryl Streep can’t do? I knew she could sing (C&W in Postcards From the Edge, ABBA-pop in Mamma Mia!), but who knew she could belt it out in true Broadway fashion? She has two major numbers here, and each has a passage where her voice has to soar like Patti LuPone or Idina Menzel, or Elaine Page singing “Memory” from Cats, and brother, she soars! She shakes the rafters. She could have had a career in musicals.
I have no real complaints here, just a few things I missed. The biggest one is they cut the number between the two princes in the second act, where they agonize (singing “Agony”) about how they have each found a woman they must have, in spite of being married to Rapunzel and Cinderella. The girls are clearly Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Life is meaningless to these guys without a quest. One of the best lines in the play: “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” Says everything you need to know about the handsome jerks.
I also miss some of the staginess of the original, which I saw on Broadway. I realize that in a movie it’s almost always best to show more “real” stuff, but the fact is that I like staginess. On stage, all we ever see of the giant is after they have killed her, a giant head falls from stage right, and all we see is the back of it. Here, we have to see the giant, though never clearly. The movie is narrated, but we don’t see the narrator. On stage, he came right out wearing a tweed suit and addressed the audience. Even better, at one point the actors notice him and feed him to the giant as a sacrifice! I loved that!
In the film you are not amazed to see the witch transform herself from an old hag to a beautiful woman. It’s all SFX. On stage I was stunned by the change, carried out right in front of us. Bernadette Peters, who has spent half the play with warts and a hooked nose and protruding chin, takes something like five seconds to shed all those rubber appliances, her hat and cape, and emerge from the fog as a dazzling woman in a ball gown. How did they do that? Just amazing.
No sense complaining that Milky White, the cow, is no longer a waist-high static prop pulled around by a rope, and with an actual suitcase handle on her back. Clearly that would have been too silly for a movie. In fact, there is no sense in complaining about any of this small stuff. I’m just pointing it out, not nit-picking. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and will buy the DVD as soon as it comes out.