Into the Words with Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick

Into the Woods, movie, musical, Rob Marshall, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, photo

Meryl Streep as the Witch in Rob Marshall’s version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods

 

No, that isn’t a typo.

We have the first trailer for Into the Woods, the latest film version of a Broadway musical from Chicago’s Rob Marshall. It’s based on the award-winning show by Stephen Sondheim, who is a legendary wordsmith, and James Lapine.

I spent quite a few years working part time at the box-office for a production of “Forbidden Broadway”. When “Into the Woods” was new, the parody version was called “Into the Words”. That I use that title now, is apropos because this trailer barely has a soundtrack, let alone a song.

While it makes sure to let us know who the stars are, including Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Chris Pine, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp (He’s not playing the Giant, despite the fact that the trailer makes it seem so. Supposedly he’s The Wolf and Frances de la Tour is credited as the Giant), not a one of them sings a peep. They all…”wish”. (“I wish to go to the FESTival”.)

Are Disney and the producers hedging their bets? Do they not want anyone to know that Into the Woods is a musical? Only fans of the show will recognize the film’s logo as the one used on the show’s Playbill. It is the fans of the show, which opened on Broadway in 1987, that have been clamoring for a film version ever since. I don’t think anyone else will care.

Then again, this is but the first teaser.

“Into the Woods” was the first show I saw on Broadway, so I have a special place for it in my heart, but I can’t say that I’m eagerly awaiting this movie. In fact, I distinctly remember groaning “WHY?!” when I heard that this was in the works and when Ms. Streep was announced to star. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Idina Menzel, Penelope Cruz, Donna Murphy, Miranda Richardson, Kate Winslet, and Nicole Kidman were also considered. Wonderful actresses all. (Murphy played the role in a summer revival in Central Park. Menzel probably turned it down. Who wants to be typecast as a witch?), but to me, the role belonged to Bernadette Peters; which is yet another reason I have to wonder who this movie is for. Fans of Broadway musicals would pay to see her in a role she created and aren’t going to pay to see this movie version just because Streep is a bigger name.

For those unfamiliar, Into the Woods is a sort of compilation of the characters from the stories of the Brothers Grimm. There is a childless baker (Corden. Blunt plays his wife) who attempts to lift a family curse by journeying “into the woods” to confront the witch (Streep). Is she evil or just misunderstood? In the show she definitely gets the best song. Along the way he encounters Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Cinderella (Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his Beanstalk and Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) among others. And the witch is there to teach them all important lessons.

Marshall’s film, with a screen adaptation by Lapine is fairly close to the original stage musical, with the exception of the Narrator, who was dropped in favor of using the Baker for voiceover narration. Another noticeable change is the cut of the Mysterious Man. The role played by Streep is a combination the Witch with some of the Mysterious Man thrown in.

Into the Woods opens in the US on Christmas Day, (just in time to lock up that Musical/Comedy Golden Globe nomination and probable win. And if you think that’s not a consideration, why else were so many of the show’s songs cut so that Sondheim could fit in two just for the movie, if not to win Best Original Song?) and 9th January in the UK. (Doesn’t that make it BAFTA ineligible?). The rest of the cast includes, Tracy Ullman, Annette Crosbie, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Simon Russell Beale, Billy Magnussen and Christine Baranski.

More will follow. What are your first impressions?