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FLASH FRIDAY: First Midnight! INTO THE WOODS Casts A Spell Onstage & Onscreen

Today we are celebrating the lineage of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's family-friendly fairy tale musical INTO THE WOODS now that we have gotten our very first glimpse of the new big screen edition starring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp late this week via an attention-grabbing new teaser trailer and production photos.

Children Will Listen

"Careful before you say 'Listen to me,' / Children will listen," Stephen Sondheim so eloquently writes in the penultimate song in one of his most internationally adored and oft-revived musical theatre masterpieces, INTO THE WOODS, the song being the sagely wise "Children Will Listen". Later on in the same song, Sondheim posits the overall theme of the entire fairy-tale centric, family-focused piece: "Wishes come true, not free." And so goes the intellectual and erudite spin on classic childhood tales as presented by Sondheim and collaborator James Lapine in one of the master's most recognizable musicals.

Originally produced on Broadway in 1987 with a who's who of Broadway's best leading the cast - Bernadette Peters, Chip Zien, Joanna Gleason, Tom Aldredge and many more included - the original production had the distinct misfortune of going head-to-head with what would become the most financially successful entertainment of all time during its inaugural year on the Great White Way, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Yes, Sondheim once again faced off against Andrew Lloyd Webber, this time in the very same season - previously, many of their musicals had shared a year, but happened to open in separate seasons due to many of Lloyd Webber's shows appearing first across the pond, in the West End; such as: SWEENEY TODD and EVITA on Broadway in 1979, CATS in London and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG in New York in 1981, ASSASSINS Off-Broadway and ASPECTS OF LOVE in the West End in 1989, PASSION and SUNSET BOULEVARD both on Broadway in 1994. Yet, in 1988, PHANTOM ultimately dominated - at the 1988 Tony Awards, PHANTOM took Best Musical along with Best Actor and some other honors, while WOODS walked away with Best Score, Best Book, Best Actress and more, in a fairly even split. Nevertheless, the two musicals remain incomparable beyond their competitive Broadway births nearly 30 years ago.

INTO THE WOODS centers on many of the most familiar faces from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and provides each with musical moments to savor and celebrate, including a handful of Sondheim's most instantly lovable earworms - "I Wish", "Into The Woods", "Giants In The Sky", "No One Is Alone" and "Ever After" among them, as well as the aforementioned score standout, "Children Will Listen". Without any doubt whatsoever, INTO THE WODDS is rife with performance opportunities and showcases Sondheim at his most musically playful, with snatches of rap and pop as well as classical and folk touches, in the rich tapestry of a score. Additionally, the show has been a staple of community theaters ever since its debut nd a 2002 Broadway revival won Best Revival at the Tony Awards.

Furthermore, as Broadway babies are acutely aware due to extensive coverage on this very site, no doubt, a feature film adaptation directed by Rob Marshall is set to his movie screens this Christmas! The confirmed complete cast for the INTO THE WOODS movie is as follows: Meryl Streep as The Witch, James Corden as The Baker, Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife, Johnny Depp as The Wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince, Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel, Lucy Punch as Lucinda, Tammy Blanchard as Florinda, Christine Baranski as Cinderella's Stepmother and Tracey Ullman as Jack's Mother, with Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and Daniel Huttlestone as Jack. Judging from the set of sumptuous production photos released this week as well as the mind-blowing trailer, some wishes seem to come true for those who are patient and good... and even for those who are not.

Of course, INTO THE WOODS film star Billy Magnussen was on hand along with his impressive rock band Reserved For Rondee at June's THE LORD & THE MASTER live concert at Joe's Pub, rocking out with a SWEENEY TODD tribute and much more alongside his talented bandmates. We shall soon see how he fares in the feature film adaptation of the musical itself, but be sure to check out my exclusive InDepth InterView with him all about it for more on the matter, available here.
Also, view the extensive set of production photos released earlier this week, available here.

First Midnight

Let's take a look at some of the most memorable INTO THE WOODS moments from over the years as we look ahead to the release of the feature film adaptation this Christmas.

First, check out the original cast of INTO THE WOODS on the 1988 Tony Awards with replacement Witch Phylicia Rashad.

View the video version of the original production, as well.

Also, sneak a peek at the replacement cast in this audience capture.

The UK production won the Oliver Award for Best Musical.

Next, check out the 2002 revival of INTO THE WOODS starring Vanessa Williams.

After that, take a look at the recent environmental UK Regent Park revival.

Don't miss this look at the Shakespeare In the Park revival starring Donna Murphy.

Peruse the recent Theatre du Chatelet production in Paris.

Now, see Barbra Streisand sing "Children Will Listen" as only she can.

Also, original cast member Bernadette Peters performs a special take of an unexpected INTO THE WOODS tune.

Hit musical dramedy series GLEE paid tribute to INTO THE WOODS this year.

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine discuss the finer points of INTO THE WOODS in this fascinating discussion video.

Check out this sneak peek of the movie cast filming INTO THE WOODS last year on location in the UK.

Lastly, sample the impressive trailer for the INTO THE WOODS movie.

So, what precisely makes INTO THE WOODS such an enduring classic in the musical theatre canon? Furthermore, what song from the score touches you most of all? With a score this strong, any selection is a recipe for success, especially with real-life musical theatre royalty delivering them! Hopefully, our wishes will be fully granted and the film will manage to match the impact of the indelible previous performances witnessed in the potentially powerhouse parts - with a cast this grand and so seemingly well-suited to their respective roles, it is very likely, indeed! First midnight gone...

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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)

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