I’m jealous of guests attending the UK gala screening of Into the Woods tonight at London’s Curzon Mayfair cinema. Not for the celeb-spotting, paparazzi-dodging, canape-scarfing or any other red carpet reason. But simply because they get to watch this fantastic, fantastical film.
Indeed, I’ll extend my envy to anyone booking to see Into the Woods this weekend or in the coming weeks, as it’s released in and rolls out to cinemas across the country from this Friday 9 January 2015.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a private screening of Into the Woods before Christmas. I may well book to see it again this month, so I can take my other half Peter along. But seeing it again can never match experiencing something for the first time – thus, the jealousy – and realising that it has shot straight into your list of all-time favourites.
I’ll betray my theatrical credentials and confess that I enjoyed Rob Marshall’s Disneyfied film version of Sondheim’s 1987 Broadway musical more than numerous stage productions I’ve seen. I felt totally drawn into this beautifully realised, creepy and kooky fairy tale world and preferred the (slightly) happier endings for the ever-wishful characters.
While – as always, with Hollywood casting (Mamma Mia! anyone?) – the vocal lungs on disply can’t match the real pros, I found most of the performances delightful, particularly James Corden and Emily Blunt as the sympathetic Baker and his Wife and Meryl Streep as the beauty-coveting Witch. I also loved seeing so many fabulous Brits dominating a Hollywood film, in parts big (Corden and Blunt) and small (e.g. Tracy Ullman, Lucy Punch, Simon Russell Beale, Annette Crosbie and, hilariously, Frances de la Tour in the enormous small role of the Giant). That and the fact that it was shot at London’s Shepperton Studios means, as far as I’m concerned, this is really a British film.
And one of which we should be very proud. Into the Woods was released on Christmas in the States, taking $15.8 million that day – that’s the fourth biggest Christmas day debut ever and the sixth biggest gross for any film on 25 December. Over it’s opening weekend, it went on to take a further $31 million at the US box office, making it – in its opening weekend – the most successful film based on a Broadway musical. (By comparison, Les Miserables, which premiered on Christmas Day 2012, took $27.3 million in its opening weekend.)
My Top 10 stage-to-screen musicals of all time
I hope that Into the Woods achieves similar success here in the UK, its spiritual “home” market. In the meantime, I applaud it for making it onto my own DEFINITIVE list of best screen to stage musicals of all time.
The other nine are listed below in reverse favourite order, counting down to the NUMBER ONE STAGE-TO-SCREEN MUSICAL OF ALL TIME (according to Terri Paddock!)…
Let me be clear: on this list, I’m only looking at films based on musicals that were originally seen on stage. Not just screen, screen-to-stage or screen-to-stage-to-screen… So that counts OUT classics like State Fair, Gigi and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as well as, more recently, the remakes of Hairspray and The Producers.
There are many others that I love as well, but not quite enough to make it into my definitive top ten. Others that are very nearly up there for me include Hello, Dolly!, Camelot, Oklahoma and Cabaret, and in this century, Chicago and The Phantom of the Opera.
Where I could find them, I’ve included the original trailers for the films on my list (some of these are hilarious, do watch!) as well as some of my favourite song moments that help propel them to the top in my memory bank. Which ones are on YOUR list?
10. Into the Woods (2014)
9. Funny Girl (1968)
8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
7. Hair (1979)
6. Les Miserables (2012)
5. My Fair Lady (1964)
4. Grease (1978)
3. The Sound of Music (1965)
2. Oliver! (1968)
1. West Side Story (1961)
Into the Woods is released in UK cinemas on 9 January 2015.