My introduction to Stephen Sondheim came through first discovering Mandy Patinkin, a wonderful actor and a singer with a glorious voice. Oddly, it wasn’t The Princess Bride that led me to Inigo Montoya’s portrayer, but a ragged concert poster on a walked by wall in a random Gulf of Mexico town. Look! A man named Mandy! Little did I know that when curiosity led me to buy his self titled album, I would fall completely in love with his singing, his style and his acting. And through him, an abiding love of all things Sondheim.

I first heard Giants in the Sky on a Mandy Patinkin album. Having never seen the play, though I would love to, the song threw vague and nefarious imagery into my imagination. I’ve found myself humming it under my breath randomly ever since, and I’ve also enjoyed an occasional tepid minor belting in the car. That’s what Sondheim does to even a nonsinger. His intricate lyrics and melodies make me feel like a lesser Idina Menzel, when I get a few bars of his more challenging creations even close to the way they were intended.

Into the Woods as a movie gave me a chance to finally see the music realized visually. I thought it was a little slow and a little stagey in places, but otherwise was not disappointed. In actuality, the moments that seemed a bit more stage than silver screen gave me a touch of a feeling of experiencing its Broadway incarnation.

There were two singing highlights for me. One was the young boy, Daniel Huttlestone, playing Jack. He had a nice voice and a stunning mastery of his most difficult songs. The combination of rapid paced melody and what a lesser talent would have found to be tongue tangling lyrics was enthralling. And Meryl Streep was wonderful as The Witch. She looked both beautiful and terrifying, and displayed a wonderful talent as a singer. Is there anything that versatile lady can not do with striking individuality?

I enjoyed Into the Woods very much. I would have loved it as a two hour Sondheim experience, but I was so pleased to find the movie to be for the most part captivating, thrilling, and lovely.

Into the Woods Trailer

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