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Into the Woods Broadway Revival Cast

Have heard and seen the video of the original Broadway cast, and heard (but have no real memory of) the original London cast album, and have seen the STC and various amateur productions. Depending on my mood this is sometimes my favourite Sondheim musical. It's certainly his most accessible.

The 2002 Broadway revival cast album packaging is very nicely put together; the actual performances themselves are a mixed bag however. Some of the cast acquit themselves really well, some struggle vocally a bit (Jack and Jack's mother... who sounds like Bea Arthur had taken over the role), and then there's Vanessa Williams as the Witch. Her performance just didn't do it for me. And it's not because I'm particularly enamoured of the over-the-top Bernardette Peters rendition or the equally exaggerated Judi Connelli version (though of course I love Connelli). The part is malleable enough to be done "straight" or stylised. Don't know what Williams was going for - but it didn't work for me. A shame given how central the part is.

Ah well. It was fun spotting the changes made since the productions I'd seen (eg adding the second wolf) and good to have "Our Little World" on record... even if it's not the best version.

Was thinking, while listening to this CD, about how ITW could be adapted into a movie form. While some film musicals I think work best if the adaptation was very literal (eg Evita) or mostly true to the stage version (eg Chicago) I get the impression Into the Woods not only could withstand significant changes to the text if translated to the big screen, but that it might actually benefit from them.

For example: maybe I'm totally off track, but the distinct two-act structure might not work in an intermission-less movie. On the other hand, the concept of what happens after "happily ever after" is central to the theme... so how to best address that? Some of the songs are ... err ... less memorable than others, and some are mostly expository (eg "Giants in the Sky") and so might be rendered unnecessary in an FX-capable film. Is the cast too large for a movie or should the story be focussed onto a core group ... the Witch, the Baker and his wife maybe? What tone works best on screen? The same mix of levity and pathos as on stage? What about the narrator? Is breaking the fourth wall worth the disruption? On stage, it's an easy device to pull off; on screen, it's more risky. But again, that the outside narrator becomes part of the story (and character backstory) is an essential part of the meaning and events of the show.

I can't help thinking that an ITW movie would need to cut a fair few songs (and undoubtedly add new ones and change others) and adjust the book:song ratio to favour the spoken word. On the other hand I was outraged to to hear similar proposals made for the abandoned Les Miz movie some years ago, so I can see more die-hard Sondheim fans take to the streets at the mere gedanken experiment. Still, I think there are differences between a sung-through show like Les Miz and a more traditional book show like ITW. What works for one show doesn't necessarily work for another.


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