‘ Be careful what you wish for in the woods…’ warns Sondheim’s classic musical Into The Woods – The Grimm fairytales’ answer to Love Actually of the musical genre. A mish mash of stories that link everyone’s favourite goodies and baddies of fairy folk law together in a dark adaptation of their fables.
As far as the musical goes i’m not a huge fan, maybe as I’m scarred from being in it in my youth, it’s too long and the motifs go round and round in your head for months and years to come. However if there’s anyone who can polish a turd it’s Disney. With an all star cast lead by Meryl Streep as the tantalizing wicked witch we follow the journey of the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt)as they venture into the woods to reverse the curse laid upon their household by the Witch after his father stole from her garden while his wife was pregnant with his sister who conveniently turns out to be Rapunzel.
What Disney does well here is not taking itself too seriously – particular kudos goes to the ever entertaining Johnny Depp as the big bad wolf with snake hips to rival Jagger as he attempts to seduce the innocent Little Red and Chris Pine as the oh so charming prince. Pine’s duet of ‘Agony’ with fellow prince Billy Magnussen is a real highlight of stereotypical prince like masculinity and will leave you both cringing and crying with laughter at the same time- but in a good way.
Adapting from a stage musical that spans almost three hours I felt the right cuts were made with moving solos – ‘Children won’t listen’ and ‘Out there in the world’ performed to spine tingling effect by Streep and Anna Kendrick’s haunting vocals as Cinderella avoiding the common traps which portraying such a renowned character can have – Into the Woods is anything but pantomime.
The problematic with the story as a whole- which is no fault of Disney is always the weaker second half- part of you feels the story should end once the Baker and his wife complete their mission but the plot steers off into darker and graver consequences as they attempt to save the kingdom from the giant whose running a loose from Jack’s beanstalk. However thanks to the dark cinematography and engaging acting- Disney pull it off with an ending that moves and excites in equal measure.
The verdict? Even if musical’s aren’t your cup of tea go see it – with it’s dark humor and excellent casting you won’t be disappointed; although you may have the songs stuck in your head for the foreseeable future…