Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Into the woods with the foxcatcher ...

Is Stephen Sondheim on a roll or what, after all these decades ? INTO THE WOODS has been in the cinemas and is due on dvd; ASSASSINS recently finished its London run, I enjoyed it a lot at the perfect Menier Chocolate Factory venue with a friend from Ireland; and its off to that terrific new GYPSY next week with Imelda Staunton as Mamma Rose, and there are TWO productions of SWEENEY TODD currently on in London, the hot ticket being the Emma Thompson-Bryn Terfel one. There is a new Concert FOLLIES coming up here too, with Christine Baranski among the cast (I will have to dig out that dvd of the 1985 Concert with Lee Remick, Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook, Mandy Patinkin etc).  We also saw the dull movie they made of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC in 1977 (as per review - Musicals label). At least when I saw the National Theatre MUSIC over a decade now - the Judi Dench one - the great man was sitting one seat away from us at the preview, scribbling furiously. He is still going strong now, in his mid-80s, attending all these openings. I must play my SIDE BY SIDE BY SIDE (saw that twice in the '70s) double CD again ....

INTO THE WOODS is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel - all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them. 

This is a show I did not know apart from Streisand's versions of some of the songs on her Broadway albums. I did not have too much high hopes for Rob Marshall's film (after his NINE and CHICAGO, the less said the better) from James Lapine's screenplay.
The eclectic cast work hard: another star turn from Streep, and fun to see Christine Baranski, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen as the two princes, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullmann, Simon Russell Beale, Frances De La Tour, Annette Crosbie, and er, James Corden - at least he can't swamp this production. Johnny Depp seems out of place too as The Wolf .... Lilla Crawford plays Little Red Riding Hood as an obnoxious little brat. but on the whole, its a muddle as it plays fun with the fairy tales, and looks a little too dark. It seems the stage version breaks down "happily ever after" and teaches us a  lesson about loss and how gray the world really is - which most of the negative reviews did not get as it was a Walt Disney. However, I was fairly pleased.

Less so with FOXCATCHER - or RATCATCHER as I slipped into calling it. This weird drama - a true story it seems - from Bennett Miller (CAPOTE) has an intriguing story and top notch performances from an unrecognisable Steve Carrell and Mark Ruffalo, while Channing Tatum excels as well - as in CAPOTE his lead actors excel and transform themselves. Then there's Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave for a few minutes as Carrell's controlling mother, but one keeps wishing it would end. 

FOXCATCHER tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. When Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move on to the du Pont estate and help form a team to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at his new state-of-the-art training facility, Schultz jumps at the opportunity, hoping to focus on his training and finally step out of the shadow of his revered brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). 
Driven by hidden needs, du Pont sees backing Schultz's bid for Gold and the chance to "coach" a world-class wrestling team as an opportunity to gain the elusive respect of his peers and, more importantly, his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave)  - so the scene is set for the final tragedy. It has some cringe-inducing moments, but the actors give it their all. One cannot say too much about the outcome, but if you don't know, it will keep you guessing, the world of wrestling seems heavy with supressed homoeroticism here .... 

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