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Into the Woods
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A baker and his wife journey into the woods in search of a cow, a red cape, a pair of golden slippers and some magic beans to lift a curse that has kept them childless. Tony Award winners Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason and the rest of the original Broadway cast weave their magic spell over you in Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, directed by James Lapine, a seamless fusion of fairy tale characters and what happens after "happily ever after. "With oft-recorded songs such as "Children Will Listen" and "No One is Alone," "Into the Woods" is a music lover's delight from start to finish--and will forever cement Stephen Sondheim's unparalleled position as the giant of the American musical theater.
Fractured fairy tales of a darker hue provide the remarkable context for Into the Woods, which deconstructs the Brothers Grimm by way of Rod Serling. While the faces and names are familiar, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and company inhabit a sylvan neighborhood in which witches and bakers are next-door neighbors, handsome princes from once-parallel fables are competitive (and equally vain) brothers, and all the stories intersect through unexpected new plot twists.
Stephen Sondheim's Tony-winning score favors intricate ensemble numbers that present the characters' divergent, then overlapping fears and desires. And it's the latter category that provides a primary thread to James Lapine's ingenious puzzle of a book, which coheres around the inevitability--and treachery--of our innermost wishes. That theme is given farcical energy in the first act, which offers enough comic invention, tart dialogue, and witty music for a satisfying evening of theater as is.
Instead, Sondheim and Lapine offer a bold, darker second act that takes a look at what happens after "happily ever after," elevating the work beyond inspired parody toward allegorical gravity. By the final scenes, with the one-two punch of the score's two most enduring songs, "No One Is Alone" and "Children Will Listen," what began as a clever diversion has touched deeper nerves and primed some tear ducts. This video production by the original Broadway cast gets its marquee shimmer from Bernadette Peters's wonderful witch, but the standout (and Tony winner as Best Actress) is Joanna Gleason, who gives the Baker's Wife a mixture of warmth, pragmatism, and sudden, poignantly romantic radiance.
The DVD version is comparatively no-frills, given its American Playhouse origins, but multiformat digital audio renders the musical performances in immaculate detail. --Sam Sutherland
- Aspect Ratio : 1.33:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medNotRated Unrated (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.38 x 0.6 inches; 4 Ounces
- Director : James Lapine
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
- Run time : 2 hours and 31 minutes
- Release date : August 27, 1997
- Actors : Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Joy Franz, Edmund Lyndeck
- Producers : Iris Merlis, Michael Brandman, Wendy Cornell
- Language : English (PCM Stereo), Unqualified (DTS ES 6.1)
- Studio : IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
- ASIN : B00001PE59
- Writers : James Lapine
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #82,861 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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-This is not the movie which hasn't even been released for home viewing as of now. Yes, it is a little fuzzy but take in account it was shot in 1991 and stop being so picky. The acting is phenomenal and the humor by nearly every character is at most times subtle, quick and witty.
-It's a musical, which I grew up on. The songs are fun and clever. My 11 year old sister plays the 14 minute "Prologue" over and over. "Agony" is hilarious and stole my heart with the line, "Agony! Far more painful than yours!" Both Jack's song and Little Red Riding Hood's are fun and really show growth in characters. "Hello Little Girl" is fun, catchy and uncomfortable all at once. "There's no possible way to describe what you feel-- When you're talking to your meal!" There are so many wonderful songs and yes, in true musical fashion that's most the movie.
-As for not for kids, I'll leave that up to you. It is a darker (albeit more traditional) take on the over-sweet disney tales we all know. There are uncomfortable topics (adultery, stealing, undertones of sexuality, infertility), most of those flew over my sister's head they are so subtle and addressed in a very metaphorical way. I did answer questions about the Baker's Wife and the Wolf, both which were uncomfortable to explain but we come from an open family. Over all, I think it really depends on how your house hold runs. My house, Pan's Labyrinth and Sweeney Todd are mixed in with The Lego Movie and The Princes and the Frog, also my sister is very mature and we always gauge how a movie is being received by the younger kids as we watch.
Over all, this a dark, funny, whimsical ride with fantastic music and characters just be weary with younger viewers.
Ultimately it's your choice whether you like it or hate it, but at least now you know what you're getting into.
Second warning: THIS PLAY HAS MATURE CONTENT. Because the movie was disneyfied, people seem to believe this play must be family friendly. There are deaths. There is implied violence. There are many sex jokes. There are themes about the nature of storytelling and moral ambiguity and infidelity and being discontent even when you get your deepest desires. This is an adult play, and it uses the Grimm version of fairy tales, not disney. If you're comfortable with your children watching this, I'd also like to add that I doubt it could keep their attention for its full two and a half hour run time. It is not colorful or joyous and the humor is, for the most part, very dry.
Warning three: there is a second act. However resolved everything is at the end of the first, keep going. It will seem like it's over. It's not.
Caveat emptors out of the way, man, I love this play. It's funny, it's smart, it's heartbreaking and optimistic and cynical all at once. I believe this is easily Sondhiem's best work, in terms of concept and structure. Musically, many of the songs are technically impressive, but forgettable, with a couple of exceptions (Agony and its reprise, Last Midnight, Hello Little Girl.)
As I mentioned, the humor is very dry, but the delivery of the actors sells it. Joanna Gleeson is the standout performance, with her clever expressions and sly smirks that speak to her determination and intelligence long before the play shows this.
If you like musicals, this is a classic and high school favorite for a reason. But don't expect the same distilled, septic performances of the movie, which pulls its punches during the reversal portion of the play and comes across limp but pretty.
I'm taking a star off for quality. It looks and sounds like they used a potato to record the play.
Top reviews from other countries
As to the actors and the production... The standard of each of the players is universally good with Bernadette Peters and Joanne Gleason excellent. The film was taken directly from the stage and this shows with the cohesive nature of each scene running into the next. There are no cuts and tricks typical of most film and television dramas and that only enhances the production. It is as near to a theater experience as one could wish without the discomfort of catching the bus home afterwards.
A fascinating performance, will need more than one viewing to appreciate the way in which the various fairy tales are intermingled
The first act revovlves around a series of popular fairy stories (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the BEanstalk) that all become interlinked when a baker and his wife journey into the woods motivated by the promise of a child by the Wicked Witch.
The second act takes it a step further and asks the question - what happens after happily after? As you would expect from Sondheim, it veers into darkness at times but the comic relief is always lingering there keeping the audience engaged and entertained.
Bernadette Peters shines in a part that asks her to be ugly and beautiful and take on some dizzyingly tricky songs that leave you assured of the vitality of this womens monstrous talent. (One song - Children Will Listen is regularly included as part of Barbra Streisands repertoire - a clue to the quality of the songs here).
I guarantee that at the end of watching this you will be delighted by its mixture of emotion and sparkling wit and probably ask yourself why this particular show hasn't had the recognition it clearly deserves.
Take a walk Into the Woods and discover the magic for yourself ..........