Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Listen to Me

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Listen to Me

Article excerpt

Into the Woods soundtrack is a valuable addition to the show's recordings

December 2014 brought Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods to the big screen after years in production purgatory. With a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp, the movie - produced by Disney and directed by Rob Marshall - was highly anticipated by fans of the show. Compared to its predecessors, namely the cast recordings of the 1987 original Broadway, the 1990 London and the 2002 Broadway revival productions, the resulting soundtrack album provides a nice contrast. But in this case, is nice, as Little Red Riding Hood believes, different than good?

Fans of the original Broadway album will notice similarities between Streep's and Bernadette Peters' versions of the Witch. One such similarity can be heard in "Last Midnight": Streep's exit has the same comical onomatopoeia and admonition of her cohorts, but thanks to the rising swell of the accompanying orchestra, Streep's rage is more frightening. Where Peters sounds fed up, Streep sounds as if she's gone mad, creating fear in the mind of the listener.

Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen shine as the Princes in "Agony," singing with tantrum-style sadness, interrupting one another with woeful tales. Like Mark Tinkler and Clive Carter of the original London staging, the movie's princes have powerful, articulate voices that bespeak royalty, making their childish complaints all the more endearing. "Agony" gives the film's soundtrack the same tongue-in-cheek humor that lights up stage cast albums.

Johnny Depp's range is deeper than "Hello, Little Girl" originally called for, so most of his Wolf 's lines come out as growls. The joy he feels in "talking to [his] meal" is a hungry, haunting murmur. In contrast, the 2002 cast album has two Wolves (one abandoning his quest of the Three Little Pigs for Little Red Riding Hood), who hold this line out in a higher, more powerful octave. Depp's song is scarier and evokes our concern for our red-hooded heroine.

Some numbers are missing from the movie's soundtrack, but they are reflected within its narrative structure. All three cast recordings include "No More," a duet between the Baker and his father, usually played by the same performer who plays the Narrator. This song is not on the movie's soundtrack, nor is there a separate Narrator figure. …

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