No, Into The Woods is not a book. (Unless you call the libretto inside my CD case of the soundtrack of the 1987 Broadway cast a book.) But, it is one of my favorite musicals, and after I watched the movie I couldn’t resist telling everyone how I felt about it! If you’ve been waiting for an adult fairy tale, this is it!
The creators describe Into The Woods as a quest musical, where the characters from several fairy tales including Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood, venture into the woods to “get the thing that makes it worth the journeying.” Each character is tested when they receive the thing they’ve wished for. Don’t be fooled by the premise, the themes speak directly to an adult audience: staying true to oneself, remaining faithful to your spouse, growing up, understanding love, and being content with life.
I am a bit of a fan. I own the video of the original cast performing on Broadway, have been belting out the songs in my car for a number of years, and eagerly attended the reunion show two months ago where many of the original cast sang the songs and discussed the iconic show. In the movie, two standout performances were by Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, and Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. These were my two favorite roles in the Broadway production and I was eager to see how they would be interpreted. Both women were committed and stole the movie. Ironically, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood were my least favorite parts in the play, but I thoroughly enjoyed the two young actors who belted out their songs with gusto in the film. Obviously, no one compares to Bernadette Peters, and her rendition of the Witch is a tough act to follow, but almost anyone could have done better than Meryl Streep. Given her poor vocal performance, Streep was the weak link in this movie. Let’s just hope she doesn’t win another undeserved Oscar for this one.
I was pleased to see that the lyrics remained the same, as opposed to the movie adaptation of Rent which altered the Tony award winning songs to fit a different medium. The costumes, sets, and props, were perfect, and created a bizarrely familiar fairy tale world. Although several songs and characters didn’t make it into the screenplay, the overall message was communicated. I am always reminded of the show’s statement about how we each impact humanity on a large scale through the lyrics, “you move just a finger, say the slightest word, something’s bound to linger, be heard. No one is alone.”
This was such a well done adaptation! I think any Into The Woods fan would be pleased. “…I wish!”