BySimon Hardy Butler, writer at

Billions of years ago (not quite), when I was recuperating from surgery in a New York hospital bed, I decided to watch a filmed production of Stephen Sondheim's musical [Into the Woods](movie:342930), which was being shown on TV at the time.

It almost kept me in the hospital.

Let it be known that I'm not a big fan of Sondheim's songs. I like "Send in the Clowns." I enjoy "Comedy Tonight." I'm repulsed by almost everything else, from the tunes in Sweeney Todd to the melodies (if they may be called as much) in Sunday in the Park with George. In general, I find the music ugly, simplistic, mere carriers for Sondheim's oft-bitter lyrics than standalone entities.

Now we're getting a movie version of Into the Woods, and I couldn't be less excited.

True, I've only seen the trailer, and that may not be indicative of the overall picture. But I'll tell ya: Just because a flick's backed by a big studio (Disney), a well-known director (Rob Marshall) and top stars (Meryl Streep, for one) doesn't mean it'll be good. For me, the most important thing about a musical is the music, and if it isn't quality, the entire thing can be torture to watch ... and listen to.

Yeah, so Meryl's in it. Eh.
Yeah, so Meryl's in it. Eh.

I have another confession to make: I often find Streep's performances to be mannered and unconvincing, and I'm not so sure that'll be different in Into the Woods. The trailer suggests she's going to pull out all stops as the witch, so that doesn't bode well for subtlety.

Not that I was expecting that.

I suspect I'll feel obligated to see this movie, as I usually am with things I know I won't like but am trying to convince myself to keep an open mind on. Sondheim's songs will surely test my endurance. Not surprising, then, that one of them is titled "Agony." If that doesn't speak to my appreciation of this composer, I don't know what will.


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