The Disney-produced “Into the Woods” celebrated its premiere Monday night at the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan, with a full-filled after party for stars and guests at the Edison Ballroom on 44th Street.
The Stephen Sondheim musical, with lyrics by James Lapine, ran on Broadway in 1987 and starred Bernadette Peters as the witch. This new big screen version has been adapted and directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) with Meryl Streep putting her own spin on the role as the witch in a terrific and innovative performance that should earn her a 19th Oscar nomination (three wins).
One of my favorite parts is the opening prologue in which Streep performs a sort of witches’ rap and explains the curse on the Baker’s family that sets the chaos in motion. Yes Meryl can rap. James Corden – 2012 Tony winner for “One Man, Two Guvnors” – is the Baker, and Emily Blunt, his wife, and they both yearn for a baby they cannot conceive because of the witch’s hex. Blunt is a revelation. She has a beautiful singing voice and manages to be both funny and poignant. She has a real shot at a supporting actress Oscar nomination.
Very unlike Disney’s animation fairytales, “Into the Woods” is a dark take on the Brothers Grimm fables. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and the Baker’s wife do not have a happy ending. Prince Charming (Chris Pine) cheats on Cinderella (Anna Kendrick). Jack (Daniel Huttelstone) of the Beanstalk fable, through his dimwittedness, nearly destroys his village. But it’s also an enduring tale about parents and children, the value of friendship and what really defines a family, universal and relatable themes.
One of my favorite performances, because it’s such a surprise, is how funny and terrific Chris Pine is as the vain and silly Prince Charming. He sings beautifully and is hilariously funny. A stand out is a duet he has with Bill Magnussen as Rapunzel’s prince, where they compete as to who is the most charming and desirable prince, leaping around and tearing off their shirts to show off their chests. The audience howled. That Pine is gorgeous doesn’t hurt.
Johnny Depp (Big Bad Wolf), Christine Baranski (Cinderella’s stepmother), Tracy Ullman (Jack’s mother), Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch (Cinderella’s stepsisters) round out the lead roles.
Sadly, neither Depp nor Pine made it to the after party, where Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt, who both stayed until well after midnight, were the star attractions. I tried to get a photo but security guards shooed away non-celebrity guests. In the photo I shot of Streep, her eyes are closed, but she still manages to give off a movie star glow.
“Into the Woods” opens Christmas Day, but it may be too dark for the kiddies.
(Editor’s Note: I’ll have all the details re sex, violence, language, etc. in my review – check it out before seeing the movie…Jane)