Though the show cautions to be ‘careful the wish you make’, I’m here to attest that every so often a wish can indeed come true.
This past Saturday evening a strange and inexplicable happenstance of events took place (that’s another story), resulting in me attending a screening of Into The Woods at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in New York. It was followed by a Q&A with director Rob Marshall, writer James Lapine, and the films incredible cast.
Minor spoilers ahead…
I was both excited and scared (ha) for the release of the film since I first heard it was happening about 2 years ago. After all, movie adaptations of stage shows can be hit or miss. I was hopeful that with Rob Marshall at the helm this film could do it, especially since I hold ‘Chicago’ (which Marshall also directed) as the gold standard for modern transition.
Now, I won’t go so far as to say that Marshall repeated the perfection of ‘Chicago’, but he did come pretty darn close on this one. He stayed true to the book, where possible, and brought the sights and sounds of the show to incredible new heights. I wasn’t as visually blown away as I was by ‘Chicago’, but I think that was the point. ‘Into The Woods’ is a very dark, character driven story. It has no need for the glitz and accoutrements, so comparing the two in that respect feels a bit like apples and oranges. (But don’t get me wrong- ‘Into The Woods’ is visually stunning.)
The first half of the film followed the book very closely, and the strays that came after were understandable. ‘Ever After’, ‘So Happy’, and ‘Agony’ (reprise only) were removed, as was the character of the Mysterious Man. This allowed them to toss/alter a few smaller plot points, while keeping the story moving. (Though I will forever be saddened by not hearing Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen sing about ‘their things’ with dwarfs and blood.)
I found the flashbacks inconsistent, and mostly unnecessary. For instance, when Little Red Ridinghood is recounting her tale to The Baker in ‘I Know Things Now’ there’s a flashback. However when Jack recounts his own adventure to The Baker in ‘Giants In The Sky’ there is no flashback. And the latter worked much better for me.
I was thrilled to see that the characters of Little Red Ridinghood, Jack, and The Baker were given so much screen time (I’d say the most, aside from The Witch and Wife). I was worried that given the cast, the roles played by lesser known screen actors would be cut down. But, as I mentioned above, the film followed very closely to the book. No extra time was given to The Wolf or Cinderella’s Prince simply because they were played by A-listers (albeit both parts were brilliant – Chris Pine stole every scene he was in). This was a truly an ensemble piece, and a remarkably well cast one at that.
Meryl Streep as the The Witch, Emily Blunt as The Baker’s Wife, James Corden as The Baker, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince (or “The Prince” in the film), plus Billy Magnussen, Lilla Crawford, Johnny Depp, Tracy Ullman, Christine Baranski, and more. Honestly, every role in this film was perfectly cast. And every last one of them can sing! (As is not the case in some… *cough* Phantom… movie musicals.)
My big concern going into the film was that it would by Disney-fied, as they say, and I am happy to report that that was not the case. There is just as much death, destruction, removal of toes and heels, and general dark humour in the film as is in the original show.
Though this fact does leave me wondering who their intended market is. While the film will certainly appeal to fans of the stage show, who else are they gearing it towards? The theatrical trailer gave no indication to an unknowing audience that it’s a musical, or that it’s meant for an older audience. I have a feeling that despite the cast and aggressive advertising, this release will not be a great one. I’m sure it’ll do well enough, but I don’t think that it’s going to be the box office and awards blitz that Disney is hoping for.
But, I hope that I’m very wrong on that count, as I personally loved the film and will definitely be seeing it again (and likely again) in theatres after it’s released on December 25th. I am extremely excited about the soundtrack, which contains 50 tracks (!!!) and will be released on December 14th.
I still can’t believe my luck on this one. Not only did I find myself in a screening, but then a massive portion of the cast shows up, sits 10 ft in front of me, and chats about the film for an hour.
Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Tracy Ullman, Rob Marshall, James Lapine, Anna Kendrick.
Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, James Corden, moderator.
The Q&A was a nice mix of moderator, audience (both NYC and LA), and social media questions. Everyone got a chance to talk for a bit, lots of insight was provided, and some great stories were told.
Yahoo has the entire 50 minute event online, should anyone be interested in watching:
As you can watch it yourself, I don’t need to say much on it. So, instead, I’ll share some photos:
It was a very fun night, an excellent film, beautiful people, and I still can’t believe I was there.