Friday, August 16, 2013

Musical: Into The Woods (1991)

When one of my co-workers mentioned this was his favorite musical my interest was immediately piqued. Finding this 1991 filmed stage version on Netflix I started to watch with fairly low expectations but soon found that it was much more entertaining than I could have thought!

Into The Woods is a cleverly written musical that intertwines the stories of several fairytale characters into a hilariously fun but twisted story. Now the songs are stuck in my head and it's definitely one of my favorite musicals too.

This review is particularly about the 1991 film recording of the of the Original Broadway Cast but since many of you probably haven't heard of this musical it will focus on the musical in general. I also have a few words to say about casting news for an exciting new movie version planned for 2014.

The Witch visits the Baker and His Wife.
Story: A baker and his wife journey into the woods in search of a cow, a red cape, a pair of golden slippers and hair the color of corn to lift a curse that has kept them childless. In the woods they meet up with characters from Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. Each character wishes for something but soon finds that their wishes coming true might not be what they really wanted.

Cinderella sings about Prince Charming.
Costumes: In this production the costumes are very fairytale-like, a mixture of Medieval through to Victorian styles. Cinderella and her stepsisters have some lovely dresses. My favorite costume was actually the dress that the Baker's Wife wears, it has lovely flow to it and I like her hat/hairpiece. Costume changes by a few of the characters were very quickly accomplished. There are a few quite low cut gowns on a few of the ladies but nothing too bad.

Jack, his mother, magic harp and Milky White.
Sets: They suggest the fairytale setting very simply but are easily moved and changed. The props were also simple and easily moved, even the cow was easy to run away with! Hehe :)

Rapunzel's Prince.
Music: Lyrics and music were composed by Stephen Sondheim (lyrics for West Side Story, lyrics for GypsyA Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd) in 1987. In 1988 it won a Tony Award for Best Musical Score. Most of the music is light and fun but there are some sweeter and more serious songs toward the end of the musical. There are some hilariously funny lines spoken and sung. The tunes themselves get stuck in your head and it's hard to get them out. :)

Cinderella's happily ever after.
Favorite Songs: At first I didn't like all of the songs but now I have so many favorites! Here's a bit about some of the best...

"Hello Little Girl" - The wolf delays Little Red Riding Hood on her way to grandmother's house and fantasizes about eating her. Red is such a funny character, probably my favorite!
*Watch Song On YouTube

"Hello, little girl, What's your rush? You're missing all the flowers. The sun won't set for hours, Take your time."

"A Very Nice Prince" - In the woods Cinderella meets the Baker's Wife and tells her about attending the balls at the King's Festival and about meeting the Prince.
*Watch Song On YouTube

-He has charm for a Prince, I guess...
-I don't meet a wide range.

"Giants In The Sky" - This is probably my favorite song now! Jack tells about climbing the beanstalk and meeting giants. A fairly simple melody but a strong voice is needed to do the song justice!
*Watch Song On YouTube

"A big tall terrible Giant at the door, A big tall terrible lady Giant sweeping the floor."

"Agony" - Brother princes meet in the woods and talk about the frustrations of wooing Cinderella and Rapunzel. Definitely quite hilarious!
*Watch Song On YouTube

-Am I not sensitive, Clever, Well-mannered, Considerate, Passionate, Charming, As kind as I'm handsome And heir to a throne?
~You are everything maidens could wish for!
-Then why no-?
~Do I know?
-The girl must be mad!

"It Takes Two" - A very sweet song sung by the Bake and his Wife as they finally decide to work together to get the items the Witch demands.
*Watch Song On YouTube

"You've changed. You're daring. You're different in the woods. More sure. More sharing. You're getting us through the woods. If you could see- You're not the man who started, And much more openhearted Than I knew You to be."

Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf.

  • Tom Aldredge as The Narrator - He starts out the story with the ever famous words "One Upon A Time" and helps move the story along. There is a hilarious moment when the story characters realize he's there and take him captive! "Some of us don't like the way you've been telling it." Yes, the story does get a bit crazy!  
  • Bernadette Peters as The Witch - One of the main characters, the Witch appears all evil but there is more to her than first meets the eye (literally!). Bernadette Peters adds so much to the Witch including amazing humor, and makes her one of my favorite characters. Her voice is quite amazing too, "Last Midnight" is just amazing! "A giant, a giant's just like us only bigger. Much much bigger. So big!" 
  • Chip Zien as The Baker - He's sort of the moral compass of the story, always doing what is right even though he'd really like to steal the items he needs. He does have some funny moments but overall is very sweet. Chip Zien's voice is very smooth and perfect for the character.
  • Joanna Gleason as The Baker's Wife - An interesting character who does have quite a few humorous lines. Joanna Gleason is perfect in the role, such light and movement, warmth and smarts. Her voice is strong and blends perfectly with each character she sings with. It's no wonder she won a Tony award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical  for this role!
  • Kim Crosby as Cinderella - The perfect fairytale heroine she is sweetness itself, talks to birds, has her wishes granted and cares for everyone. In an interesting twist she attends a series of balls at the King's festival and though she dances with the Prince each time she runs away from him uncertain whether she really wants to be pursued by him. Kim Crosby's voice is gorgeous and she's usually quite graceful but she does have amazingly funny pray falls that get the audience giggling at her.
  • Danielle Ferland as Little Red Riding Hood - Probably my favorite character from Into The Woods! Red is greedy and comically stuffs her face at every chance, she is also very matter-of-fact and says whatever comes to mind whether it's nice or not! "You can talk to birds?!?" Danielle Ferland was amazing in this role, her song "I Know Things Now" is pure genius!
  • Ben Wright as Jack - Young and devoted to his mother and his cow but easily led astray. Played by an older actor but he captures the youthfulness of the character. 
  • Barbara Bryne as Jack's Mother - Very concerned about providing for herself and her son, she sends Jack through the woods and on to the market to sell their cow Milky White. Although she's slightly annoying she also has her funny moments brought to life amazingly by Barbara Bryne. 
  • Robert Westenberg as The Wolf - A bit creepy and very greedy but he too has his funny moments. Only one song but long enough for us to realize that the guy under the wolf suit also plays Cinderella's Prince, a similarly greedy character. The costume they have him wear is a bit odd.
  • Tom Aldredge as The Mysterious Man - With his funny introductions and mysterious appearances he helps the story along but without making much sense until toward the end of the first act. 
  • Robert Westenberg as Cinderella's Prince - "I was raised to be charming, not sincere." This quote just about sums up both princes. He is bold in his pursuit of the maiden and rescuing her but not very heroic when it comes to his kingdom. Robert's voice is very rich and suits the character perfectly. An interesting fact is that in real life the Cinderella and Prince Charming characters met and married through this production!
  • Pamela Winslow as Rapunzel - Very young and a little dim witted. She sings constantly and isn't very interesting although her story is made interesting by being part of the Witch's story. Her screeching scenes toward the end of the production is pretty funny.
  • Chuck Wagner as Rapunzel's Prince - I rather like him more than Cinderella's Prince but his character is very similar. The duets he does with his brother prince are brilliantly done and some of my favorite songs! "Dwarfs are very upsetting!"
  • Lauren Mitchell & Kay McClelland as Lucinda & Florinda - Cinderella's stepsisters who are both very mean and have endings they deserve. Small characters but well done. 
  • Edmund Lyndeck as Cinderella's Father - Another small part but he's a bit like a Mr. Bennet character and has a few witty lines.
  • Joy Franz as Cinderella's Stepmother - A very mean character she leads her daughter is absurdities to try to get the Prince's attention. The way Joy Franz speaks sometimes was odd but she did a good job.
  • Merle Louise as Red's Grandmother & Cinderella's Mother - Small parts but necessary to the story. 
  • Philip Hoffman as King's Steward - Another small part but he moves the story along helping with the search for Cinderella and has a few funny lines.

Rapunzel in the tower.
My Recommendation: This production is fairly family friendly. There are a couple low cut gowns worn by a few of the ladies, the Witch's curse on the Baker is a physical one so he acts like she's struck him between the legs a couple times. The after happily ever after second act gets very tangled up and includes a bit of adulterous behavior that doesn't get graphic here and there's also some death. I don't altogether like the mess that's made of the fairytales but it is interesting and cleverly done. "This is ridiculous, What am I doing here? I'm in the wrong story!"
The ending songs make up for all the messes and the cast is given a well deserved standing ovation. I highly recommend Into The Woods (1991) if you love musicals and fairytales like I do.

Into The Woods (2014) - A film adaptation of Into The Woods has been in the works for quite a while now and it seems close to being made and released! It seems Disney may have a hand in the production and that James Lapine who wrote the original story/book has written the screenplay for it but there's rumors that some of the characters have been cut. There's a lot of rumors going around about cast but here's what IMDb is currently listing and I like them very much in the roles! James Corden as The Baker, Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife, Meryl Streep as The Witch, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, Johnny Depp as The Wolf, Daniel Huddlestone as Jack (Gavroche!!!!), Christine Baranski as Cinderella's Stepmother, Lucy Punch as Lucinda, Tammy Blanchard as Florinda, Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel, Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince, Tracey Ullman as Jack Mother and Sophia Grace Brownlee as Little Red Riding Hood. Traditionally the roles of Jack and Red have been played by older actors so having actual children in those roles could be great, especially having Gavroche in another film! Meryl Streep will make a great Witch but I'll miss the original Witch Bernadette Peters. James Corden could be hilarious as could Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp. Anna Kendrick will be a perfect Cinderella! Looking forward to more news about this film!

"Wishes may bring problems,
Such that you regret them.
Better that, though,
Than to never get them..."

Have you heard of Into The Woods or ever seen this or another stage production of it?

Did you watch the film clips? Which was your favorite?


beastsbelle said...

I was able to watch this when we had Netflix, and while I loved the first half and many of the amazing performances, I was disappointed by some of the things they chose to add to the story.

Since you have some younger readers, I thought I'd just mention that aside from the adulterous themes you mentioned, there is some definite innuendo in several of the songs, especially the ones dealing with Red and the Wolf. It's subtle enough that I probably wouldn't have caught on to most of it before I was married, but I thought I should mention it just the same. Also, the wolf's costume is anatomically correct, which might bother some of your readers as it did me.

I thought the music and performances were amazing. This was the first time I had the opportunity to see Bernadette Peters in a stage role, and she was brilliant. Red's acting and comic timing were hilarious as well. I wish they'd chosen to leave us with a more uplifting ending, but I know that is a matter of preference and not everyone is like me. ;)

I'm not sure how I feel about the new cast, just because the original cast was so wonderful. :} I'm sure they'll all do a great job, though.

Alexandra said...

I think this is one musical I haven't seen, LOL. :D My brothers sang "Agony" one year for a recital, but other than that I'm not that familiar with it...need to remedy that, it looks awesome! :)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Thanks for mentioning those instances and summing it up so well. There is some innuendo that creeps in.

I think you would really like it! The second part really plays havock with each character's happily ever after but it does end semi-happy. The music is fantastic. Oh hey, I watched A Tale Of Two Cities the musical a couple days ago and I loved it! Made be sob all over the place1 ;)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Thanks for mentioning those instances and summing it up so well. There is some innuendo that creeps in.

I think you would really like it! The second part really plays havock with each character's happily ever after but it does end semi-happy. The music is fantastic. Oh hey, I watched A Tale Of Two Cities the musical a couple days ago and I loved it! Made be sob all over the place1 ;)

beastsbelle said...

Another fun bit of trivia...did you know that Robert Westenberg and Kim Crosby, who played Prince Charming and Cinderella and met while performing "Into the Woods" together, are married in real life? :)

Larissa said...

I don't remember this one very well but I do remember that my college put this performance on many years ago and I laughed- A LOT! I need to see this again!

Hamlette said...

I've heard of this a few times, but didn't really know what it was about. Thanks for this in-depth look at it!

Miss Margaret Dashwood said...

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Emma Jane said...

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Lynn(e) said...

I love this musical. i watched the 1991 stage version many many times with my children. I surprised my son when he was about 11 or 12 years old by taking him to see the stage production of this musical. I believe that's the only time I've seen it I didn't know about the current production I will definitely be interested in checking it out. I watched several of the clips on your site, it had been many many years since I've seen this production. Brought back wonderful memories that was such an excellent production. Giants in the sky was always my favorite song.

Evie Brandon said...

Once upon a Time!

This is one of my favourite musicals! My school did this show and it was so much fun!

In a far off kingdom..

Yes yes the movie will either be fab! or really bad.. :S

There lived a young maiden..

Isn't the music wonderful!! I love your fault but it's really annoying when it's in your head.


Yes I love those songs too! The two boys that sang Agony were so funny!!

A sad young lad.

Isn't Bernadette wonderful!!
anyhow it is awesome! although some of the songs have other meanings than when you first hear them! :D

Great review :)

You have been tagged also!

~Miss Evie Brandon

This is ridiculous, What am I doing here? I'm in the wrong story!

I quote this daily :P

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