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Into the Woods Blu Ray Review

Title: Into the Woods (1991 Original Broadway Production)

RLJ Entertainment / Image Entertainment

Director: James Lapine

Writer: James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim

Cast: Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Tom Aldredge, Robert Westenberg

Running time: 153 minutes, Not Rated

Special Features: None

Available December 2nd

The 1991 Broadway filming of a musical about several storybook characters whose lives intertwine.  The baker (Chip Zien) and his wife (Joanna Gleason) are childless and make a wish to have a child. Jack (Ben Wright) and his mother (Barbara Bryne) are penniless and make a wish that the selling of their milk-less cow will bring them some money.  Cinderella (Kim Crosby) is denied by her stepmother to go to the king’s festival, so she makes a wish to go. Little Red Riding Hood (Danielle Ferland) goes to the bakers to pick up some bread and cookies to take to her grandmother in the woods.

A witch (Bernadette Peters) appears at the baker’s house and informs them they have a curse on their family to make them infertile. It all started when the baker’s father stole some magic beans from her garden. She says in order to break the spell she needs to make a potion that requires a number of items: “the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold,” all before the chime of midnight in three days’ time. The baker and his wife venture into the woods to procure the ingredients. First they come upon Jack leading his cow “Milky White” into town to sell for no less than 5 pounds. They have nothing to purchase the cow, but they find a handful of beans in the baker’s father’s old jacket. They convince Jack that they’re magic and buy the cow.  The baker encounters Little Red in the forest and tries to steal her cape, but feels bad and returns it. Red gets to her grandmas house and is eaten by the wolf. The baker slays the wolf and rescues Red and her grandma. As a show of thanks, she gifts the baker with her cape and fashions a new one from the skin of the wolf.

Jack returns home with the beans, his mother tosses them outside and sends him to bed without supper.

Meanwhile we find the witch has raised Rapunzel as her own child.  The bakers wife steals some of her hair and goes to find her husband.  The witch discovers that Rapunzel has been having a fling with a prince, cuts off her hair and banishes her to the desert where she gives birth to twins.

Cinderella is running from the festival and managed to lose a shoe. She runs into the bakers wife who tries to get her hands on the other one. The prince goes to Cinderella’s house in search of her. Her stepsisters cut off their toes in order to fit into the shoe (from the original fairy tale – it’s effed up) and finally Cinderella gets her prince and they ride off together. The stepsisters get their eyes pecked out by birds.

Jack has found a treasure trove up the beanstalk that has grown from the tossed beans. He killed the giant, and now his widow has come down the beanstalk seeking Jack’s blood…and a few people die.

The Good:  If you don’t want to wait for the Disney version that’s being released later this month, it’ll sustain you for the time being. The costumes and makeup are quite good, I especially liked the Wolf’s makeup, but it doesn’t look like they’re going for the same effect in the Disney version, or else we’d miss out on Johnny Depp’s beautiful face.

The Bad:  It’s incredibly long, especially for one who isn’t a fan of musicals. I like musicals, but I really have to be in the mood for one. This one will spoil the Disney version because you will know which characters bite it in the story.  The acting is not great, with exception to Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason,  and the only people that can actually sing are Peters and Pamela Winslow (Rapunzel). The majority of the cast remind me of when I went to Fullerton College’s Theater Games with my classmate Danny Strong.  We had to shuttle the rival high school drama class on our bus whom was performing Into The Woods, and of course they had to practice for the competition the whole trip. That was one of the most excruciating 45 minutes I can remember…and these actors in this recording got paid to act and sing just as poorly.

You really have to like musicals to enjoy this. I’d much rather see it on stage live than a recorded version. There are no special features and the quality of the recording isn’t fantastic. Why this was released on Blu-ray without extras is a mystery.

Acting: C

Story:B

Technical: C

Total Rating: C+

Reviewed by: JM Willis

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