‘Into the Woods’ ~ The Skinny

Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and Milky White

Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and Milky White

The singing? Crystal clear! The acting? Committed! The cinematography? Fantastic! From the Broadway stage to the silver screen, screenwriter James Lapine and director Rob Marshall have produced admirably Stephen Sondheim’s heartfelt musical, and we carry with us a host of platitudes when we leave the theater. The music seamlessly is interwoven within the dialogue, and you will not declare through gritted teeth, “just one more !@#$%&* song, and I am out of here!”

Into the Woods is an adventure into the business of wish-making and the tedious processes it takes to make wishes come true. The story also delves into the tensions between children and parents; the search for the charms that will grant motherhood; spells mothers cast on their daughters; and, the hell you pay for touching and taking things that do not belong to you.

Baker's Wife (Emily Blount) and Baker (James Corden)

Baker’s Wife (Emily Blount) and Baker (James Corden)

Tiffany Little Canfield & Co. have assembled a laudable cast for the production, and the actors portray each character with honesty, compassion, and courage. Johnny Depp plays the prurient Wolf that brings to mind a pedophile most nefarious; his rendition of “Hello Little Girl” would cause a rattlesnake to recoil! By contrast, James Corden’s Baker is precious, and the actor interprets the Baker well as a protective husband but reluctant father. Emily Blount as the Baker’s wife, Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood, and Chris Pine as Prince Charming, among others, ably transport us into the world that critiques the usual suspects who inhabit the land of make believe. A small but significant note: Canfield & Co. sprinkles the palace crowds with people of color.

The darling of the film is, however, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack, and his performance is the reason his photo opens this review. His confidence is catching, yet, he refrains from playing a precocious know-it-all adolescent. Instead, Huttlestone’s Jack trusts in his own world and, with a bit of dash, explores its wonders (and steals from it too) because “you’re free, to do whatever pleases you … exploring things you’d never dare ’cause you don’t care …”

The Wolf (Johnny Depp)

The Wolf (Johnny Depp)

Overplayed and overdone is–here it comes–Meryl Streep as The Witch (did I just hear a shriek?) Simply put, she is miscast! What is all of that whirling dervish mess she acts out in the middle of the wood? Her delivery of “Last Midnight” is hollow–no … maddening, as are her obnoxious over-the-top appearances! For me, she fails to reach the depths of the Witch’s emotions.

While I am at it, I have an issue with Lapine, Marshall, and Mr. Sondheim: The Witch, the eldest of the group, finally gets her wish only to be dismissed? Into the Woods suggests, then, that happy endings are reserved only for young adults and not for the communal elders. Yet, as I call to mind fairy tale endings, their suggestion is par for the course.

Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford)

Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford)

Before closing, here are some more things to ponder: Little Red Riding Hood sings Wolf made her “feel excited and scared”; and, exactly what were those secrets she learned of “down a dark slimy path” that Wolf slid her through? As for Jack, he sings the Woman Giant “draws [him] close to her Giant breast, and [he knows] things now that [he] never knew before”, and this friendship causes Man Giant to “come[] along the hall to swallow [him] for lunch … when the fun is done”?

I’m just thinking on these very lyrical moments that rang out with passion into the woods!

And that’s the Skinny!

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