Into the Woods (2015)

Nearly thirty years after Into the Woods premiered on Broadway, Disney’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s seminal work has opened in London this week. Emily Blunt and James Corden star with Meryl Streep leading as the Witch. Film versions of favourite films are always a risk for a fan. Did it hold up?

Er, yes. Of course it did. Thank God. Sweeney Todd on film was good but didn’t hit the target. Into the Woods did.

The cast is incredibly strong. James Corden has found his groove: the cutesy blundering TV persona is a thing of the past in this film. Corden has graduated.

Streep is good all the way through, but shines the brightest in the Witch’s Lament. Both her and director Rob Marshall must have known Sondheim fans would have original Broadway lead Bernadette Peters Witch in mind when they watched the film. Streep doesn’t usurp; she stands shoulder to shoulder.

INTO THE WOODS

Similarly, Emily Blunt playing the Baker’s Wife: she’s not trying to better the original Joanna Gleason. Both are owning it. Don’t make me choose between them.

Anna Kendrick plays an assertive Cinderella, while Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood reprises the sardonic delivery of the original Broadway cast’s Danielle Ferland. The line “You talk to birds?” is as funny now as it was when I first saw the show in 1997.

Honourable mentions for Christina Baranski as Cinderella’s Stepmother, and Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch as her step-sisters. Dark, mean and utterly self-absorbed. Fantastic hair.

Lucy Punch, Christina Baranski and Tammy Blanchard.

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