Sondheim fairy tale enchants viewers
“I Wish.” Those two words begin the film that tells a story of happiness, despair, teamwork and hope, all through the eyes of beloved fairy tale characters. Into the Woods, a dazzling Stephen Sondheim musical, tells the story of Cinderella, Jack and his beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and a baker and his wife. Through these characters’ individual journeys, worlds collide as each person ventures into the woods to have his or her wish come true.
Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick, wishes to go to a festival and interact with royalty. Kendrick humanizes the classic rags to riches working girl and shows the hidden emotion behind the character. Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his mother (Tracey Ullman) hope to become rich. Huttlestone plays Jack with a vibrant tenacity that draws the audience to him. Ullman plays the role of Jack’s mother showing how pathetic her life is through humor. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) hopes to deliver a basket of goods to her sick Grandmother. Crawford plays Little Red with an innocence that transforms into courage after she experiences danger before the audience’s very eyes.
The baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) dream of having a child. Corden plays the part of the baker with heart and humor, causing the audience to empathize with him. Blunt’s beautiful voice and impeccable acting emote her strength, courage and desire for motherhood, paired with a sweetness that causes the audience to hang on to every word she says.
All of these characters embark on their journey with high hopes. However, a witch—played by the goddess Meryl Streep—who lives next door to the baker and his wife, has other plans, cursing the baker and his wife so they will never be fertile. In order to lift the spell, the baker and his wife, must bring the witch a “cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, a hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.” Streep is absolutely chilling as the witch, using her signature brilliance and flair to capture in the audience.
Other notable performances include Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, whose dashing rendition of the song “Agony” proves that he is just as musical as he is charming and sexy, and Johnny Depp’s Tim Burton-like depiction of The Wolf. Depp plays the character with both fear and sly, dry wit.
This film is absolutely breathtaking, both through its talent and its scenery. The setting is absolutely beautiful filled with vibrant trees and streams. It mixes a fantastical world that is both exciting, beautiful and even haunting at the same time. The costumes and makeup also depict this fairy-tale world and even place some hints of realism into the costumes.
What makes this film so unique is the fact that it brings the magic of Broadway to the screen. Produced by Wicked’s Marc Platt and directed by Chicago’s Rob Marshall, the audience does not even notice the seamless transition between song and speech in the film and feels a part of the story every step of the way.
Through Sondheim’s brilliantly clever lyrics and James Lapine’s beautiful story, Into the Woods shows that even fairy-tale characters have their flaws. The second half of the film shows the loss of innocence and the transition of a world into chaos. At the inevitable end when all seems well at Cinderella’s wedding, the giant who Jack found from the beanstalk begins to destroy the village and its inhabitants. Each character must return to the woods to save themselves as well as those around them. It is there that the characters must work through various challenges in order to come together and see the other side.
Into the Woods teaches that “no one is alone.” Director Marshall said that this story is more important now than ever before as it has hints of a post 9/11 society filled with both fear and then hope. In the tragedies that go on in this world daily, people can learn from Into the Woods that no matter what danger lies ahead, as long as people work together and support each other, the world can come back stronger and more powerful than before. It all begins with one wish.