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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Thursday, January 8

Into the Woods

Finally, finally, I got to see Into the Woods, the movie version, that is. Let me explain. When I was teaching theatre and theatrical techniques to my eleventh grade classes, I used the PBS presentation of the Sondheim stage play (exactly as it was staged on Broadway), and I watched it with them, five classes a year for the last six or seven years I taught. That comes out to a bunch of times I’ve seen this oh so successful Broadway musical, like between thirty and thirty-five times. Did I ever get bored through all those viewings? No, never. I loved the theatricality of it, presenting this complicated mixture of the best-known tales from the Brothers Grimm, opening with the stage divided into the three main locations—Cinderella at the fireplace wishing she could go to the ball, Jack and his mother lamenting their poverty, and the baker and his wife wishing for a child. The scene is set by a narrator, a stage manager just like the one Thornton Wilder introduced us to in Our Town, with the opening number, “I Wish,” going from one locale to the next, each of the opening characters singing about their own particular wishes. And then we’re introduced to the witch, Bernadette Peters in all her witchy glory, as she explains to the Baker and his wife why they can never have a child and how they might reverse the curse she had placed on them—to gather for her four items by the next blue moon: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. As you can see from these items, the strands of the various tales will converge here with Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, all of them going into the woods to find their destinies, and the woods can be a spooky place. I enjoyed the film version, but not as much as the stage version. Sorry, director Rob Marshall. You did as well as you could. But most movie versions of well-known Broadway musicals just can’t do it as well on a huge scale as the stage version did on a small scale. Paradoxical, isn’t it? Some of the humor was lost with the use of a real cow instead of the wooden one, and real horses instead of the surprising ones in the stage version pulling a carriage loaded down with the evil stepmother and her two really nasty daughters. Anna Kendrick was delightfully good as Cinderella, and Chris Pine was surprisingly good as Cinderella’s pursuer prince. I may be nitpicking again, but not even Meryl Streep can do a better witch than that of Bernadette Peters, not even one as good as. And I thought the little blond, fat-cheeked Red Riding Hood in the Broadway version (Danielle Ferland) was much funnier and better than Lilla Crawford’s movie version. And though Emily Blunt performed and sang well as the baker’s wife, I kept seeing and hearing Joanna Gleason. Same with James Corden’s baker. He seemed too big and handsome compared to Chip Zien’s smaller and funnier version in the stage play. And then, of course, there was Johnny Depp as the big bad wolf, lasciviously singing “Hello, Little Girl” to the naughty little Red.
Nahh, he just didn’t do it or sing it as well as Robert Westenberg, with his on-stage wolfie penis hanging out for all the world and the audience to see. He was just penis-less Johnny doing his Johnny Depp thing. Back to Meryl’s witch. Although her singing is adequate, it can’t get even close to Bernadette’s voice. Even her makeup as the witch wasn’t adequate. She looked pretty much like Meryl with harridan blue-gray hair.
And her transformation into the younger, beautiful witch wasn’t quite as believable as when Bernadette did the witch-switch. Again, just nitpicking. I love the score, especially the lyrics. Thank you, James Lapine, for the fairy-tale update. Thank you, Stephen Sondhiem for the really clever lyrics, especially in the comical “Agony” of the two princely brothers, the baker and wife with “It Takes Two,” the amorous “Any Moment/ Moments in the Woods” with the straying baker’s wife and Prince Charming, and for the warning that “Giants can be good” and “Careful the things you say, children will listen.” If you’ve never seen a stage version of Into the Woods, you won’t be distracted as I was, comparing the two versions. Just listen carefully to the lyrics and pay attention to how clever and intricate they are. And remember, children will listen.
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