Why It Sucked : "Into the Woods"

Chris Peterson

It's been almost a year since Into the Woods was released. While I myself was excited to see it, I admit I was anxious about the results, especially given Rob Marshall's products since Chicago.

When it opened, the opinion among musical theatre fans was divided. Some loved it and others hated it. Initially, I felt somewhat negative about the film as a whole. But with its release on DVD,  I decided to give it another chance. Did I like it the second time around? Not at all. In fact, I found a lot more wrong with it now then I did before. Here is what was so wrong about the Into The Woods movie. 

Rob Marshall

Some would think that Marshall would be the perfect person to take Into the Woods from stage to screen. I had my reservations. Other than Chicago, Marshall hasn't made a "good" film. From Memoirs of a Geisha to Nine to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Marshall's films are all style with hardly any substance. So I was justifiably nervous about him taking on Sondheim's most popular work. 

Looks like I was right. We forget that first and foremost, Marshall is a choreographer and when doing a movie with no choreography, his flaws as a filmmaker are only heightened. There were confusing edits, cuts in songs, and of course plot changes that the director is squarely to blame for. And considering very little was changed in Chicago, Annie and even Nine, it makes what he did here even more egregious. With his announced intentions of doing Follies next, needless to say I'm a bit worried. 

Obvious Auto Tune

For the most part, all of those cast in the film could actually sing. So it's beyond confusing why, especially James Corden, Emily Blunt and Chris Pine, are so heavily auto tuned? The main issue with Les Miserables was that not all of the actors could actually carry a tune, so mixing was desperately needed on that film. But here, it wasn't needed all that much. Most of the cast had already proven either on film or on stage that they didn't have to be auto tuned this heavily.

Cut Characters & Songs

I'm all for editing a piece for time issues. But there were characters and songs cut from the movie that made no sense because having them included wouldn't have changed the time duration of the film all that much. 

For instance, I don't understand why they cut the role of the Mysterious Man/Narrator only to include most of his dialogue and the scene where "No More" should have been. This is another cut I don't understand, if they're going to include the scene where the song would've taken place, then why not include the song? It was a confusing choice. 

Another confusing cut was loosing the second verse of "No One Is Alone" which starts with "You move just a finger." Again, another edit that wouldn't have made the movie much longer. 

Finally, two of my favorite songs are "Ever After" and "So Happy", so you can imagine my confusion and disappointment seeing that they were cut but that the scenes where they would have been were included and spinets of the songs themselves, were in the score. Again,  if you're going to include the scene or score, why not include the song. I had the same feeling about not including the opening song to Sweeney Todd in that film. 

The Wolf

It's amazing how the treatment of such a small role in the overall piece can be handled so incorrectly. Let's start with the obvious, costuming. Colleen Atwood is one of the great costume designers of our time, so I am beyond confused that if the movie takes place in the 18th-19th centuries, why is the Wolf in a Zoot Suit from the 1940's? Complete with a pocket square and wallet chain?!?!?!  

They were probably going for an homage to the 1943 Little Red Riding Hood Disney Cartoon,  but it just doesn't make sense in this movie. I found myself very distracted over this incredibly dumb move. 

The other problem with the role is Johnny Depp. For someone who is usually so reliable when it comes to charisma, his performance is so terribly flat and "mailed-in", it's maddening. Depp has certainly been on a down swing as of late and this performance didn't help. 

The Rapunzel Debacle

After watching the film again, the choice still makes little to no sense to me. It only points to the fact that Disney didn't want children to see one of their Princesses die.  

What was even more disappointing, was that throughout this entire process, Sondheim himself didn't stand up for his work. The changes did nothing to elevate the original piece. So why was Sondheim so agreeable and supportive of Marshall and Disney tearing his masterpiece apart?

Well money makes us do strange things. 

It Truly Takes Two: My Top Five Male Broadway Duets

Patrick Connolly

Is there anything better than a powerful duet in musical theatre. In fact, some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre history are duets. From "Anything You Can Do" to "Tonight" to "For Good", these numbers can be the highlight of an entire show. 

Interestingly enough, when thinking about some of the best duets, you usually don't consider duets performed between two men.  So to give songs like these their due today, here are my five favorite. 

“Agony” from Into the Woods

I’m pretty biased when it comes to this song: I was Rapunzel’s Prince in a production of Into the Woods, Jr. in 2005, and I was responsible for singing his part. But even taking the bias out of the picture, this is easily one of the wittiest male duets ever written for the stage. Of course, it is written by Stephen Sondheim, who is arguably one of the greatest musical theater composers of all-time, so I shouldn’t have expected anything less. 

“The Confrontation” from Les Miserables

Again, a little bit of bias considering a.) It’s Les Miserables, and b.) I sing this with one of my best friends—also a musical theater geek—every single time we get the opportunity. I don’t care. Even though this duet lasts for a brief amount of time, the amount of power this song has is astonishing. I’m a huge sucker for voices that overlap each other, and it’s done so well in this song. I could listen to (and perform) it over and over again, ESPECIALLY if it’s performed by Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis. 

“Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden

No, this song is not a duet between Severus Snape and James Potter expressing how much a little girl reminds them of Lily, but I can understand the confusion (Perhaps a parody could be created in A Very Potter Musical: The College Years?). In what is easily one of the very best songs of this musical, this duet is a marvelous expression of the grief presented in two perspectives: one who longs for his wife, and another who longs for an opportunity. It also helps if you listen to the version with Mandy Patinkin and Robert Westenberg first. An absolutely beautiful duet.

“What You Own” from Rent

Whenever I get into a conversation about their favorite songs from RENT, I mostly receive “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme” as answers. While those answers are absolutely valid, one of my favorite songs from the musical seems to get sidelined. It is a duet between Mark Cohen and Roger Davis that appears in Act Two; I don’t know why most people talk about it more. Not only is it unbelievably catchy (as are the majority of the songs in the musical), but by God, listen to those harmonies by Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp. Harmonies were practically born for music, and this song is a shining example. Also, there’s an overt reference to “The Twilight Zone” found in this song, and I am totally okay with that. Thank you, Jonathan Larson. 
{THIS LAST CHOICE FROM NEXT TO NORMAL GOES INTO SPOILER TERRITORY. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE BRILLIANCE THAT IS NEXT TO NORMAL, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. CHEERS!}

“I Am The One (Reprise)” from Next to Normal

My favorite male duet in all of musical theater. Despite being oh-so-brief in under two and a half minutes, it contains more raw emotion and power than ANYTHING that’s played on the radio today. The amount of complexity is astonishing: listen, for instance, to the words “I am the one who watched while you died”, and how it is sung by both Dan and Gabe. With both characters singing this line, it means two completely different things to each of them. With Dan singing this line, it represents his grief for when Gabe died as an infant. With Gabe singing this line (or at least, the visual representation of how Dan would see Gabe as a teenager if he continued to live), it represents his perspective of seeing his father grieve for such a long period of time. Both Aaron Tveit and J. Robert Spencer kill it with their incredible vocals, but any great actor/singer can perform this song, and the song’s message would still come across powerfully. It’s that good.  

Comment below what your favorite male duets are in musical theater history!  

10 Film Adaptations of Musicals That Are Worth Watching

Anthony J. Piccione

The movie musical. It’s been a topic that’s been revisited by the writers on this blog quite a few times before, including a few weeks ago, when I wrote an article entitled 10 Reasons Why Film Adaptations of Musicals Tend to Fail. In the comments section for that article, I got an interesting request for a future article: To do a list of film adaptations of musicals that I actual thought were good, rather than focusing on the negatives of such adaptations. I thought it was a good idea, hence why this week, I’ve decided to take the time to come up with such a list. For this list, I collected a bunch of films that are adapted from musical theatre, and even if many of them do not live up to the original stage version, are still worth watching for different reasons.

So without further adieu, here is my list of 10 Film Adaptations of Musicals That Are Worth Watching:

 10.    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – A bit cheesy, I know. But if you ask me, it’s still one of the better movie musicals to originate from a theatrical production out there, even if it belongs near the bottom of this list. 

9.    Hairspray (2007) – Not exactly one of my favorites. Some people love it a LOT more than I do. Nonetheless, it’s still a fun movie, based off of an even more fun musical. 

8.    Annie (1999) – Perhaps the best adaptation of this musical overall. Even if the 1982 version had better acting, this was able to stay the most true to the original musical while also remaining an entertaining film. 

7.    Chicago (2002) – Like the original musical, the film adaptation is also very musically entertaining, visually stunning…and all that jazz.

6.    Rent (2005) – This is still one of my favorite musicals of all time, even if it is a bit overproduced. If you ask me, the film version does a near perfect job of adapting it for the silver screen, which can’t be said of all other such adaptations. 

5.    The Sound of Music (1965) – Just as much of a classic as the original musical, if you ask me. I couldn’t possibly do a list like this without including it somewhere on here. 

4.    Les Miserables (2012) – I know this will be a controversial pick, and I agree it doesn’t quite live up to the original Broadway show. But on its own, I still say it is a film of high-quality. It didn’t get an Oscar nomination for nothing. 

3.    Into the Woods (2014) – While still fairly recent, I don’t think it’s too soon to say that this is one of the best film adaptations of a musical ever made, and I think we will all remember it as such for years to come. 

2.    West Side Story (1961) – Some people might say that this is the best adaptation of a musical of all time, and I agree that it is truly both a musical and cinematic masterpiece. However, there is still one more I can think of that has a special place in my heart. 

1.    Sweeney Todd (2007) – From casting to directing to visuals to soundtrack, nearly everything about this adaptation is perfect, and is as every bit of a dark treasure as the original musical. I have nothing but nice things to say about this adaptation, and it just so happens to be my personal favorite of all time. 

What do you think? Do you agree with this list? Are there any musicals that you think should be on this list that aren’t? Any on the list that you think shouldn’t be? Be sure to let us know in the comments!