Sunday, February 08, 2015

I love Stephen Sondheim.

I love Into The Woods.

I was always going to have a lot of time for the new film version, star-studded cast or no.

But in the event, I confess to feeling slightly cheated by it.

I've puzzled over whether this was a consequence of my usual trick of expecting to LOVE something and then feeling vaguely let down.

But in fact, I approached this film with pragmatism because of the all star cast. All stars are all very well. But can they sing Sondheim?

So I conclude that I do just feel vaguely cheated.

It started with rousing vigour. As does the stage show. A cacophonous calamity or fairy tales crunched together leaving almost no room to breathe.

This first section has much wow factor. James Corden. Emily Blunt. Thingummyjiggy (sorry, lady) Jack's mum. Jack! (Les Mis?) Meryl! Skinny little girl who gets all the roles where you have to look smart and so not too attractive (even though she's actually perfectly gorgeous as soon as you slet her be) [Anna Kendrick - I just looked her up] as Cinders. And then the wolf appears and - be still my beating heart - it's Johnny!

So the witch sets the childless couple the challenge (the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold) and off they go. Via the two daft but handsome Princes, the mother-hating turreted recluse, the feisty cake snatcher, Jack's long suffering mother, some village people, a wicked stepmother, a pair of stupid stepsisters and a giant or two.

It's a rollicking story.

And all credit to the cast. With a score that must be outwith many people's comfort zones, on film - so you can away with far less from a sound point of view I suspect - they do an exceptional job.

There are numerous song highlights (though remember, I love love love this music). You Are Not Alone made me weep. There's a lovely wistful song riddled with metaphor about big tall terrible giants at your door. Meryl's heartbroken Stay With Me to slutty Rapunzel is mesmerising. Children Will Listen. Well, hah. If only they would. And I don't know how much he got paid for Hello Little Girl but every cent was worth it.

The trouble possibly lies with the plot which, after the rollercoaster set up, settles into basically a chase through the woods. And oddly, I found this easier to watch / more absorbing / more fun on stage when they're clearly not running around trying to find each other amidst extensive trees. In the film version, it's like the trees suck the energy out of the story somehow.

OR I didn't care enough about James and Emily gathering their various bits and pieces in order to claim their prize for my interest, music notwithstanding, to be gripped and grasped until the sorrowful but ultimately courageous climax of the film.

Either way, it's a fun couple of hours with some outstanding acting. Fabulous costumes. Excellently accomplished singing. But I'd see the stage show every time.

And I did prefer Jonathan McG to Daniel Huttlestone.


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