Watching/Listening

Enjoyed some TV, radio and film over the past few days. Honourable mentions below.

The Imitation Game. Cumberbatch is brilliant – everyone knows that – and his portrayal of Alan Turing is incredibly touching. Turing’s demise is heartbreaking. The film humanises computing, endorses digital and reminds us just how much things have changed for gay men. Loved it.

Huw Wheldon Lecture. Michael Dobbs arguing the case for public service broadcasting. Difficult in places, especially if like me you’re passionately pro-BBC. Broadly supportive. Required viewing.

Media Show. Listened out for Jeremy Clarkson analysis, ended up appreciating the segment on the representation of older women in TV news. The first time I’ve heard people in their 70s and 80s talk about old age in such a way that I’m looking forward to it. Dame Joan Bakewell was particularly touching.

Artsnight. Late night BBC Two after Newsnight. It’s like Newsnight Review without the reviewers droning on. Lynn Barber fronts episode two, linking interviews and packages which clearly enthuse her. She has an engaging on-screen presence and a refreshing interviewing style. Really liked the package about how print journalism isn’t dead. So too, the interview with Mark Ronson. This might be my favourite new thing from the BBC. Don’t anyone fiddle with it. It’s perfect already.

Boy George: Karma to Calamity. Loved this. Revealing. Telling. Gutting. Live vocals on a TV show aren’t easy; Twitter is a crushing medium. The album Culture Club reunite after 30 years to make doesn’t get made. That doesn’t matter. Heroes from 30 years ago trust a producer/director to make a surprisingly daring documentary.

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.

Filming underway for Disney’s production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods

An interview in today’s Guardian with actor James Corden about the TV programme he’s currently promoting ahead of its launch on 24 September – The Wrong Mans – has led to an exciting personal discovery: Disney is shooting a live-action film of Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant Into the Woods.

Disney’s live-action production of Into the Woods was announced at the D23 Expo back in August.

Back in August at D23 Expo (left), Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production President (that’s got to be an impressive title to rattle off at cocktail parties) Sean Bailey announced the cast for Disney’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Rehearsals were already underway at that stage, with filming at Shepperton studios scheduled for late August/early September.

The cast list is impressive. James Corden is playing the lead role of The Baker opposite Meryl Streep as The Witch, no mean feat given that a great many Sondheimites will no doubt compare the film version with the seminal performance given by Bernadette Peters on stage.

Very good to see Brit-born Tracey Ullman in the role of Jack’s Mother. So too the hapless but lovable princes played by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen.

 

The original cast recording of Sondheim and Lapine’s Into the Woods is available via Spotify