The musical film may be released by Walt Disney Pictures, but in case you don’t already know, things aren’t that bright and cheery in this adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical of the same name. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the story brings together main characters from well known fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk:, “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella”. You shouldn’t be expecting happy endings though, as with the music on this deluxe edition soundtrack – tunes are dark, edgy and dripping with black humour.
The two disc soundtrack contains 98 minutes of music material over 50 tracks. Compared to the 125 minute runtime of the Rob Marshall directed film, there are only about 30 minutes of music we are not getting on the album – which is a pretty good thing for soundtrack fans. What’s more, we get a lyric booklet too!
We are first introduced to the main characters in the 15 minute “Prologue: Into the Woods”, a wonderful tune that tells us the motives and personalities of each protagonist. Particularly enjoyable is Meryl Streep’s entrance as the Witch. The frumpy character sneers how she was raided by the Baker’s father: “He was robbing me/ Raping me/ Rooting through my rutabaga/ Raiding my arugula and ripping up the rampion”. It’s wickedly fun to hear the Academy Award winning actress perform.
Another highlight is Johnny Depp’s snarling his way through “Hello, Little Girl” as the Wolf. The lyrics slyly incorporate some sexual innuendos which are gleefully performed by Depp. Elsewhere, Daniel Huttlestone’s Jack sings “Giants in the Sky” while being backed up by a swelling score, Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood naively croons “I Know Things Now”, and Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen’s Princes show off their vocals (and their glorious chests in the film) in the humorously written “Agony”.
Anna Kendrick has proven her prowess in Pitch Perfect (2012), and she puts her voice to good use here, singing her heart out in “On the Steps of the Palace”. James Corden and Emily Blunt’s Baker and Baker’s Wife fare well too, as evidenced in the emotional Finale/ Children Will Listen (Part 1). They are joined by Streep, who shows us her charisma as a star in other tracks like “Stay with Me” and “Last Midnight”.
If you have seen the stage version, you will be sharp enough to spot the deleted songs, edited lyrics and differences from the original production. Theatre enthusiasts can go on for hours griping these changes, but one thing you can’t deny is that this lushly produced soundtrack is one enjoyable ride into the darker realms of fairy tale land.
Recommended Track: Disc 2 (13) Finale/Children Will Listen (Part 1)
Review by John Li