It’s the first of November which means it’s officially only one calendar month until I can start playing all the Christmas music I have on my phone… and I have a lot of Christmas songs on there.
I listen to music on shuffle on my phone most of the time when I am out in town and it can be disconcerting, when I’m wandering around central London on a muggy August afternoon, when something from Ella Fitzgerald’s Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas album suddenly starts playing over my headphones. If I’m not paying attention, I can get through about half of Dolly Parton and Kenny Roger’s I Believe in Santa Claus before I realise I am singing along whilst eating an ice cream and wearing shorts. Sleigh bells and sandals are an odd mix.
Some pieces of music belong in a particular season. On the way to work today it was grey and a little bit damp, and there was someone from the council in a side street clearing the pavement with what must have been the world’s noisiest leaf-blower. Without really thinking I pressed play on the 1987 cast recording of the Sondheim musical Into the Woods, it seemed to perfectly fit my mood and the weather. I imagine I have seen more stage productions of Into the Woods than pretty much any other musical, and I am very much looking forward to the movie version which is currently filming at Shepperton Studios. If you think people are obsessing over the forthcoming film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, you have not seen the level of interest and excitement surrounding Into the Woods – and it isn’t due in cinemas until Christmas 2014! Even before the first official set photograph of Meryl Streep as the Witch was released, people have been commenting and critiquing every casting decision – “Can Chris Pine sing?” “Can Meryl Streep rap?” – and wondering what will be altered and which songs will be chopped. Not surprising, given that there have been whispers of a cinema version of Sondheim’s fairy-tale show pretty much since its 1987 première and Sondheim fans are particularly protective of the great man’s works.
Into the Woods meshes together a number of famous characters from children’s stories, including Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood. The story asks what happens after the “happily ever after”? What happens when you apply real world logic to the life of Cinderella, for instance, once she escapes her nasty sisters and marries her prince? And what happens when you realise heroes aren’t always good, and bad people aren’t always the ones to blame when things go wrong?
Alongside official photographs, there have been plenty of photographs taken by the public, as the film has been using a lot of wonderfully autumnal outdoor locations around the country, including Dover Castle. I could be wrong but the shots I have seen make it look very much like director Rob Marshall is going for a earthy, mossy, realistic look for the film, which fits in perfectly with the story itself, a lovely mixture of the fantastical and the real, of magic and mud, which I hope is echoed in these wooded paintings from our own archive which, to me, evoke the feeling of the Sondheim show.