By Bill Hirschman, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, Special to EyesOnNews.com, Dec 21, 2014 – I have been a Stephen Sondheim acolyte much of my life and hisInto The Woods with James Lapine has been a cherished memory since I saw it on Broadway in 1987. Treasuring work makes one resist tampering with a jot of Holy Writ and sets the bar very, very high.
Keep that in mind when I say that if you can accept that film is a different storytelling medium from theater, this version of Into The Woods is not only faithful to Sondheim and Lapine’s vision, it actually clarifies and deepens the musical’s themes and narrative. This present opening Christmas Day is an unalloyed triumph.
Most of the physical and moral darkness is intact despite this being produced by Disney. Director Rob Marshall, who resurrected Chicago and possibly the movie musical, delivers precisely the disconcertingly nuanced world of greys that the authors want the audience to acknowledge and yet still move forward to community-based action.
Leading a deft cast and profligately skilled creative team, Marshall excels at illustrating Sondheim and Lapine’s use of conjoined fairy tales to illuminate a host of issues, including but not limited to the consequences of actions, the pain of parenthood, children struggling to get past parents’ failings, the virtues and vices of community dynamics, and the complexity of real life.