INTO THE WOODS

While I was in New York performing Avenue Q on Broadway, I had an audition for a revival of another Sondheim musical "Putting it Together" and had the opportunity to sing for the man himself...Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.  It was an experience I shall not soon forget.

ALONE can mean solitude.  ALONE can mean being alone even in a crowded room.  ALONE can also mean being in an involuntary state of existence.  ALONE is a theme and through line often used in classic Sondheim pieces.

Into the Woods is THE classic Sondheim musical and has been on Broadway twice where the "Witch" has been portrayed by such heavyweights as Bernadette Peters, Cleo Laine, Phylicia Rashad, Betsy Joslyn, Nancy Dussault, Ellen Foley and Vanessa Williams in the 2002 revival.

Having never seen the original or revival, I was eager with anticipation.  Mostly because for the screen version...yes ladies and gentleman  it is Meryl Streep as the "Witch" and she has freaking done it again!!!!  Is there anything this woman is NOT capable of??!! Singing Sondheim is no easy task, yet Streep does so with the greatest of ease and is compelling to watch.  As much as I love Meryl though, I would've loved to have seen Vanessa or Phylicia have a go at it.

Meryl Streep as THE WITCH

Meryl Streep as THE WITCH

Meryl Strep "Into The Woods"

Meryl Strep "Into The Woods"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC07rPoK9lI

Having said that, most of the time when Hollywood adapts these musicals, there is always a weak link in the cast.  The onscreen cast of Into The Woods is strong as steel from the youngest cast member, Lilla Crawford,  to the fantabulous Meryl Streep.  Their singing and acting are superb and they never skip a beat.

Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood), Chris Pine (Prince Charming), Emily Blunt (The Baker's Wife), Christine Baranski (Stepmother) were my favs and had a variety of scene stealing moments.

I was not ALONE when I burst into applause and laughter doing this film, nor will I be ALONE in the multitude of opinions that will come in the midst of INTO THE WOODS' nationwide release on Christmas Day.

Watch it, take the kids, relive those classics tales once more through a different a pair of eyes and imagine what would happen if their outcome was somehow tweaked.  You'll be happy you did.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6Yz5BRMGIQ

Tribute: Elaine Stritch and James Garner

UnknownAfter a matinee of "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", I asked one of my castmates to go out for lunch when he told me that he had plans to hang out with Elaine.  I naively asked who she was and he said, "...you'll know when she gets here".  Not even five minutes later, I heard that booming, gravely voice bellowing for her friend to come down the stairs, because she wasn't coming up...LOL.  That was my introduction to Elaine Stritch.  I loved her immediately, because she NEVER suffered fools gladly and wouldn't let anyone waste her time. So when that uniquely bold personality left this realm over the weekend, I was curious about her entire career and not just her affiliation with Stephen Sondheim and "Company".  What I found was absolutely fascinating.  She had worked in many shows, but her big break came when Noel Coward wrote "Sail Away" for her making her a star, however, it was the memorable song, "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Sondheim's "Company" that made her a Broadway Legend.  Her status was further solidified when she won a Tony for her one-woman show "Elaine Stritch at Liberty".  In 2013, Stritch was the subject of a documentary called "Shoot Me", where she is seen looking back on her life, career and ultimately says goodbye to the bright lights of Broadway for a simpler, quieter life back home in Michigan.  Elaine Stritch was one of a kind and we were lucky to have her if just for a little while. "Shoot Me" and "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" are available now on NETFLIX.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/zQysjiUA68U?t=2s]

MV5BMTM1Nzk2NTA3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEzODI0NA@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_One of my favorite shows to watch back in the day was Rockford Files with James Garner.  What was not to like?  He was acerbically funny, handsome and there was something about his presence that made you want to be friends with him.  Garner, was one of the last true "movie stars", and made a career out of simply being himself.  Younger audiences became familiar with him when he starred opposite Gena Rowlands as the older couple version of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in the film version of Nicholas Sparks' novel "The Notebook".  Garner passed on over this weekend as well, but thanks to film restoration, we can watch him and get a giggle one last time anytime we want.

MV5BMjA0OTkxOTQxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ3NjI0MQ@@._V1_SY200_SX148_AL_

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C8EUrtEhfM

RIP  Elaine Stritch and James Garner

Carla Renata

Hey My Fellow Movie Lovers...

A Bison, Virgo, devoted daughter, yoga and spinning enthusiasts, graduate of  the "mecca" - Howard University's School of Communications, former publicist, actress, branding influencer and "doggie mom" to an adorably smart-energetic maltese are just a few of the characteristics that make up the essence of me -- Carla Renata.

Formerly of UBNRAdio.com, where I Co-Hosted "On Air With Tony Sweet", this Fall, I will be hosting a new show for Black Hollywood Live owned by E! Correspondent Maria Menounos  and am a freelance contributor for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered.

I absolutely adore talking about all things cinema and it is my sincere hope that although not every opinion I have will or will not be embraced, know that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to share!  Enjoy and see you on the red carpet!!!