Theatre Thursdays: ‘Into the Woods’ and Onto the Screen!

Oh my! A movie camera!

Oh my! A movie camera!

The beloved musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is set to be adapted as a movie! If you’re unfamiliar with the musical, it is a re-telling of multiple fairy tales whose stories and characters intertwine when they go on their individual journeys “into the woods”. The well-known “happily ever after” ending of each tale is only half of the musical’s story, which continues to explore how these characters grow and learn after their adventures and realize that “witches can be right, giants can be good” and that “wishes come true, not free”. It’s a really excellent musical that I suggest checking out. The original Broadway production was filmed and released on DVD so you can purchase it from Amazon for as little as three bucks to stream online.

According to broadway.com, Rob Marshall will be directing the movie with theatrical juggernaut Disney producing. I’m seeing this as a double-edged sword, really. Working with Disney should mean ample funds for production costs so we can expect great locations/sets, costumes, and special effects which, though not a definite necessity for this musical, will definitely be appreciated. On the other hand, Disney is primarily a children’s entertainment company and despite the use of fairy tales in this musical, it is a very complex and adult story. There are marital difficulties, dark implications, sexual undertones, and overall just a lot of moral complexity that I worry Disney may try to tone down or gloss over.

So far Meryl Streep is confirmed for the lead role of the Witch, and I have confidence in her ability to handle the character. This is arguably the most important role in the story, as it is the Witch’s plans which make the characters’ paths cross in the woods and brings the stories together. She’s also probably the clearest example of the moral ambiguity of the musical, which presents her as controlling and calculating, but also loving and guarded. Her songs “The Last Midnight” and “Children Will Listen” show the heart of her character as well as the show.

This was the only kind of Witchy photo I could find of Meryl...

This was the only kind of Witchy photo I could find of Meryl…

Additional names loosely attached to the project are Johnny Depp as the Baker (though he’s also been rumored as the Big Bad Wolf), Jake Gyllenhaal as Cinderella’s Prince, and Chris Pine as Rapunzel’s Prince. I don’t have much of an opinion on the Princes, but I think Depp could make a fantastic Baker and it would be (or at least should be) a role unlike his usual schtick. The Baker isn’t creepy, offbeat, or larger than life; he’s kind of just lovable and a little goofy with a soft heart. It’d be nice to Depp take on a character who’s not so grandiose.

One of the best things about this musical being made into a movie is that very few of the characters really need to be played by strong singers and since Hollywood seems nigh on incapable of casting people in musicals who can both act and sing, this one should be very doable. I look forward to this movie, and hopefully it lives up to the strength of its source.