I was fortunate enough to experience the original broadway production of Into the Woods back in the late 1980’s. It was an extraordinary event shared by my mum and sports loving brother on the hallowed turf of Broadway. It was a hot summers day and the cool air-conditioned comfort of the Martin Beck Theatre provided a much needed respite from the New York summer. The stage production was the masterwork of legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Follies/Sweeney Todd) and director James Lapine. The film adaptation years in the works, directed by Rob Marshall, whose past adaptations include the Academy Award winning Chicago and Nine could not possibly recapture the exhilaration of that night, however you must admire the ambition.
The broadway production ran three hours, Marshall’s adaptation a little under two hours and the second half feels a little rushed. The first half of the narrative conjoins various familiar fairytales, including Cinderalla, the baker and his childless wife, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and the witch. The second half explores the happily ever after or "Once Upon a Time...Later." as Sondheim and Lapine explore a darker, contemporary retrospective on what happens after your wishes come true. Cinderella is bored, Jack wants to return to the land of the giants and the bakers wife yearns for a prince.
Shot on sound stages at Shepparton studios and the woods of the English countryside, Photographed by Australian Dion Beebe (Edge of Tomorrow) with Production Design from Dennis Gassner (The Truman Show) and Art Direction from Andrew Bennett, Ben Collins, Chris Lowe and Mary MacKenzie. Colleen Atwood the Meryl Streep of Costume Designers dresses the cast.
Of the ensemble it is Blunt who stands out, she manages the comic, dramatic and vocals effortlessly, her performance of “Moments in the Woods” is truly memorable. It is the songs that retain much of their impact, particularly “No One is Alone.” and “Children wil listen.” Marshall clearly treasures these songs and renders them beautifully.