Musicals are a deeply divisive genre. There are those who know life would be infinitely better with impromptu yet perfect choreography and others (the misguided) who refuse to admit that our emotional highs and lows deserve to be communicated through rousing chorus and the occasional soulful ballad.
The doubters reign for most of the year but Christmas belongs to the singers and the dancers – and we only have a few more days left. Before the curtain falls on pantomimes, carols and cheesy songs make a point to go and see Into the Woods. Following on from the wild success of Frozen, Walt Disney Pictures have translated Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's landmark 1987 Broadway musical onto the big screen. It's the perfect way to stave off reality and the return to work just a little longer.
Retreat to a far off kingdom where the Baker and his Wife learn of a curse that prevents them from having a child. They venture into the Woods to seek out the ingredients which will reverse the spell. By the time the blue moon rises in three days’ time, something which only occurs once every 100 years, they must return with four items: a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn, a cape as red as blood and a slipper as pure as gold. On their journey they encounter: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and young Jack – each one on their own quest to fulfil a wish.
Production designer Dennis Gassner drew inspiration from the work of acclaimed English book illustrator Arthur Rackham, combining fantasy with reality to create a heightened surrealism. While for costume designer Colleen Atwood, see Selvedge Issue 56, who won Oscars® for “Alice in Wonderland,” “Chicago” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the chance to design for characters who are all from different fairy tales, was incredibly appealing. In creating a unique fairy tale world, the decision was made not to root the film in one particular time period, but instead to embrace the “mash-up” nature of the piece where all the different characters and stories collide.
A stella cast and classic songs add to the magic of a film that explores what happens beyond "happily ever after" and warns us to be be careful about what we wish for...