Movie Review – Into the Woods (1991)

Into the Woods (1991)
Written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine

For a minute, I thought about rewatching the Frank Marshall-directed version of this musical, but the idea of watching James Corden turned my stomach enough to find an alternative. So I decided to finally check out this film of the original Broadway cast’s performance. It may not have the digital effects and “star power” of the 2014 motion picture, but it is the complete musical being done by highly talented people, and I loved it. I was able to see the entire story, all the scenes and songs deleted from the Disney movie, and the result was a story with much more cohesive themes and a maturity the film ultimately lacks.

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Movie Review – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Written by John Logan, Stephen Sondheim, and Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Tim Burton

Sweeney Todd is arguably Stephen Sondheim’s best work. It’s a transgressive, bleak Broadway musical that goes against everything the art form had built itself up to. Most audiences are familiar with Rodgers & Hammerstein or Andrew Lloyd Weber and other popular composers within the modern musical. As a result, there’s a certain expectation from these productions that they will have lavish sets, present memorable songs, and provide thought-provoking but ultimately cheerful endings. Oklahoma dips its toes in darkness via Judd Fry but makes sure it ends things on an upbeat note. Sweeney Todd embraces violence and a dark worldview to deliver a story that stays with you, like a haunting.

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Movie Review – Gypsy

Gypsy (1962)
Written by Leonard Spiegelgass, Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Gypsy Rose Lee
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy

Stephen Sondheim died at the age of 91 in 2021. He left behind 16 full-length stage musicals and penned songs for both film & television. I can’t say I was ever a theater kid, but I did grow to have a deep appreciation for Sondheim’s work as just a fan. While I do not have the musical vocabulary to talk about the complexity of his work, I can address it as an appreciator of his clever lyrics and stories centered on people. His work has such maturity compared with many popular Broadway shows, particularly his writing in the 1980s when the industry was leaning into spectacle over quality. His stories refused to end on “Happily Ever After” sentiments and instead made audiences confront the nuance of being alive in the modern world. I don’t think someone like Sondheim would ever happen in today’s corporate Broadway musical landscape.

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