As both a diehard musical theatre fan and a diehard movie fan, I’m always pleased when I can satisfy my musical and movie cravings in one sitting. I adore the film and musical versions of Rent, The Phantom of the Opera and Annie, among others, so I get excited when new musicals are put onscreen. And it’s only better when they’re musicals I love like Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods!
Into the Woods is a musical that combines characters, including Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, from several of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. The main story follows original characters the Baker and his wife, who are trying to lift a witch’s curse and encounter the fairy tale characters, in the midst of their own troubles, in the woods.
The musical premiered in 1987 and was nominated for many theatrical awards that season, including 10 Tony awards. While the movie has changed certain elements of the musical to make it more family and Disney-friendly, Sondheim, feels it’s a “faithful adaptation.” Sondheim also had some collaborative input on the film adaptation of his musical Sweeney Todd, so if you liked that movie, rejoice! But if you didn’t like it, take heart in the fact that Sondheim has been more involved in the making of Into the Woods.
Even if you have lingering worries over the changes, you can’t deny that the movie’s huge cast is filled wall-to-wall with stars. That doesn’t guarantee the movie will be good, of course, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I was surprised but pleased to find that most of the cast has a theatrical background, so this shouldn’t be another Les Misérables where some of the most important actors – *cough* Russell Crowe *cough* – can’t sing.
And with that good news, let’s meet the cast of Into the Woods!
James Corden and Emily Blunt will take on the parts of the Baker and the Baker’s Wife. Corden is a British actor, who recently came to fame both through his role of Craig Owens in a couple episodes of Doctor Who and his work in the play One Man, Two Guvnors, for which he won a Tony. Next up, Corden will take over The Late Late Show when Craig Ferguson steps down. For her part, Blunt has been in a great many movies, including The Devil Wears Prada, The Adjustment Bureau, Looper and most recently, Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise. Chances are you’ve seen her in something, but did you know she has a background in theatre? She performed in several plays before her movie career took off, including playing Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet.
The Baker and his Wife will square off against the Witch, played by Meryl Streep. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you know who Streep is, but I’ll remind you that she played the lead in Mamma Mia!, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. So we definitely know she can sing.
As we move into the fairy tale characters, first we have Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick. You may know Kendrick – and her vocal chops – from the smash hit Pitch Perfect, but did you know she’s one of the youngest Tony nominees ever? She was nominated for her role in the musical High Society when she was just 12 years old. It looks like Kendrick has found a calling in mixing movies with music because two of her upcoming movies are Pitch Perfect 2, which of course has singing, and The Last 5 Years, a film adaptation of the Jason Robert Brown musical.
Included in Cinderella’s storyline in Into the Woods are her stepmother and stepsisters. Taking on the role of the stepmother is Christine Baranski, who currently portrays Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife. The stepsisters will be played be Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard. Punch must be typecast because she previously played an evil stepsister in Ella Enchanted. She has also been seen in such films as Hot Fuzz and Dinner for Schmucks. Blanchard has had small roles in several movies, but she is better known for theatre work, including Tony-nominated performances in the revivals of Gypsy and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Cinderella’s prince will be played by none other than Chris Pine, who previously played a prince of sorts in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Of course, most people recognize him as James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. If you can’t wait until Into the Woods to catch him, be sure to watch Horrible Bosses 2, which comes out at Thanksgiving.
The other prince in the movie, this one Rapunzel’s, will be played be Billy Magnussen, who doesn’t have a lot of credits to his name yet, but spent years on the soap opera As the World Turns. He did earn a Tony nomination for his role in the play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and his next movie is the film adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s novel The Great Gilly Hopkins. Much like her prince, Rapunzel, played by Mackenzie Mauzy, is largely unknown. She spent time on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful and can currently be found in a recurring role on ABC’s Forever.
Although new to movies, the two youngest cast members can hold their own against this cavalcade of stars. Daniel Huttlestone, who plays Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk,” has mostly stage experience playing Gavroche in Les Misérables but took the role to the big screen in the recent film adaptation. For Lilla Crawford, who plays Red Riding Hood, this will be her feature film debut, but she played the lead role in the Tony-nominated revival of Annie.
In Jack’s storyline, we also have his mother and the Giant. Jack’s mother will be played by comedian and former pop/punk singer Tracey Ullman, who recently played Robin’s mother on How I Met Your Mother. The Giant will be played by Frances de la Tour, who played half-giant Madame Maxime in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
We’ll end this cast introduction with an easy one – the other member of Red Riding Hood’s storyline, the Wolf, who will be played by none other than Johnny Depp. Like Streep, I doubt I have to tell you who Depp is, so I’ll just remind you that he previously starred in Sondheim-adapted Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. If you’re among the people unimpressed by Depp’s musical chops, you’ll be glad to know the Wolf doesn’t have that much singing to do in Into the Woods.
With this much talent in one place, I know you’ll want to get to the theaters quick to see Into the Woods. The film opens on Christmas Day, and since the cast is so big, it’s sure to have one person for each member of your family to care about. Perfect for making sure no fights break out around the holidays, at least not about movies!