By Mackenzie Cutruzzula
In Disney’s “Into the Woods,” a Baker and his wife set off into the forest to obtain “a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.” These ingredients are set to break an old curse on their household, cast by the Witch next door — a wickedly marvelous Meryl Streep — that prevents the couple from having a baby. When the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) learn that collecting the items is their only chance to have a baby, they set off into the woods where multiple fairytales cross paths.
Famous fairytale characters were portrayed by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars in this rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s famous musical. Stars included Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp as Cinderella, her Prince and the Big Bad Wolf, respectively.
Joining the cast were breakout newcomers Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and Daniel Huttlestone as Jack (of beanstalk fame). The youngsters carried heavy roles on their shoulders with major solos, going head-to-head with actors who have decades of acting and singing experience.
Going from stage to screen, the script underwent some changes, although the central plot was not affected. Most noticeable were missing songs including “I Guess This Is Goodbye,” Ever After” and “No More” that had to be cut along with others for time constraints. Characters that were cut included Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, eliminating a subplot where the two princes cheat on Cinderella and Rapunzel. The most violent deaths, Jack’s Mother and the Baker’s Wife, were toned down for the child friendly film, but their impact was not lost on screen.
Stealing the show, Cinderella’s Prince (Pine) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen) performed “Agony,” showing the shallow depth of the nameless characters in a hilarious fashion. Comparing the misery that accompanies loving a damsel out of reach, the men continue to one-up each other, as they are always “10 steps behind” or “10 feet below.”
The song garnered lots of laughs from the audience as the duo ripped open their shirts and couldn’t contain their woe, wondering whether they were not charming or handsome enough. Making a joke of the princes was a nice touch by the company that seems to have been trying to reinvent their idea of the perfect fairytale.
Blunt also gave a strong performance as a woman who would not stand to the side when commanded by her husband. She overcame the difficulty of showing how human a fairytale character. She balances the role of the Baker’s Wife’s inclination to be strong but often giving into her weaknesses. This included an affair with Cinderella’s Prince just before her death, showing a different side of fairy tales where happy endings aren’t always what they are expected to be.
All of the characters were given a different fate than the familiar ones, giving a fresh perspective on Disney culture, while still providing closure, albeit not the “happily ever after” one might expect.