You heard me. I don’t know if Into the Woods is the best musical of all time–I don’t like to get into debates like that–but I have to say that as far as accessibility, entertainment, layered meaning, musical score–all those things go, Into the Woods ranks right up there with the best of them. The fact that it got aced out by Phantom for the Tony for Best Musical in 1988 is just ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong. Phantom of the Opera is all fine and good, but let’s face it. If there were a musical cage match with Sondheim in one corner, and Weber in the other, Sondheim would take about 3 seconds before he smashed a chair over Weber’s head. (I would pay money to see this.)
Denisa and the kids and I watched this Sunday evening, and I was again reminded of just how great this musical is. Some of it is that I’ve got some sentimental attachment to it, obviously. It was the first musical I ever saw on Broadway, and I saw it in its original run back in ’88, with Bernadette Peters and the gang. It was fantastic then, and I’m really happy that version was filmed so I could rewatch it whenever I want to these days. (And it’s on Netflix Instantwatch right now? Awesomeness!)
But when I was nine watching it live, it was a fun and funny musical that mashed all sorts of fairy tales together in a bunch of exciting ways. TRC and DC thought the same thing when we were watching it the other night. They enjoyed it (although at 2.5 hours, it was a bit long for them–was I that squirmy when I was eight?)
Watching it now as a parent, I saw all sorts of other subtexts that completely passed over my head when I was nine. It’s a really adult musical, but it works perfectly well on both levels.
Then again, I realize that I’m not necessarily the end all be all critic when it comes to musicals. I’ve seen my fair share, but that share is by no means exhaustive. So my question to you, O readers, would be what your top five musicals would be. Only stage musicals. No film versions, though I realizes this trims down the candidates by quite a bit.
For me personally? (Emphasis on the personal) In no order:
- Into the Woods
- Les Mis
- Sweeney Todd