Into The Woods

Original Broadway Cast

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Details At A Glance

Category Musical None
Year Released 1990
Running Time 151:19 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (77:37)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,3,4,5,6 Director James Lapine
Warner Vision
Warner Vision Australia
Starring Bernadette Peters
Chip Zien
Joanna Gleason
Tom Aldredge
Robert Westenberg
Kim Crosby
Danielle Ferland
Ben Wright
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $39.95 Music Stephen Sondheim

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles Spanish
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Once again a DVD passes across my player for review that was not expected, and to some extent I was dreading the prospect. After all, I knew nothing at all about Into The Woods other than it was a Broadway musical - and that was something that provoked a lot of reticence about the prospect of reviewing this test sample DVD. However, like the previous such DVD that passed through my hands (Victor, Victoria) it ended up being a delightful experience.

    Mind you, what is here almost defies any sort of plot synopsis. Grabbing a menagerie of characters from a bunch of children's fairy tales, at first sight this looks to be a mixture that has no purpose. Grab Cinderella (Kim Crosby) and her Prince Charming (Robert Westenberg), Jack (Ben Wright) and his mother from Jack and The Beanstalk, a baker (Chip Zien) and his wife (Joanna Gleason), Little Red Riding Hood (Danielle Ferland) and the Wicked Witch (Bernadette Peters) amongst others, throw them into an interconnecting story centred around a forest and narrated by Tom Aldredge, and see if you can work it all out! Certainly a great piece of entertainment is the result but what is trying to be communicated here? Really this is the story of life's interconnectedness and complexities, told by taking very familiar fairy tales and retelling them in such a way that draws their common (and perhaps not so common) threads together. The story is well told with a sharply contrasting, darker second act after a very bright and breezy first act. The central crux of everything is that everyone has to journey into the woods to get what they desire in Act One, but after getting what they wished they have to journey back into the woods in Act Two to sort out the problems created as a result. Really this is something that you have to experience rather than have someone pitifully try to explain it to you. It is an enjoyable journey so even if you are not a fan of musicals, this is one that you should enjoy.

    Of course, no musical can succeed unless it is blessed with great music and on that score there are absolutely no qualms here at all. Stephen Sondheim's lyrics are superb and James Lapine's direction is razor sharp, so that brilliant and witty lyrics and dialogue bounce off each other with all the joy you could wish for. This is a really genuinely funny musical. Beyond that however is the utterly superb cast that brings this all to life. Whilst the perceived star here is undoubtedly the renowned Bernadette Peters, the rest of the cast is equally stellar without any sort of weak link at all. The real standout is Joanna Gleason who won the Tony in 1988 for Best Actress for this role. It really is not hard to see why - this is terrific stuff from her. Terrific staging adds to the delight here and this is a piece of Broadway that truly is magical.

    Even if you do not ordinarily like musicals, and I have to say that I am included in that category, this is something that you should indulge in. Wonderful stuff indeed from Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine and brought to life by an utterly wonderful cast, this is really something quite special indeed. Do yourself a favour and check this one out.

Transfer Quality


    From what I can find out, this is a 1990 recording made for television. This I did not discover until after I had watched the show and the knowledge came as a complete shock. I would have picked this for being a couple of years old at best, so good is the transfer. Naturally enough for an eleven year old television production, it is presented in a Full Frame format and therefore it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst there are a few lapses here and there in focus, this is really a beautifully sharp and detailed transfer. What especially impressed me was the way the background sets, even though the shadow detail was not the most superb I have ever seen, still were full of definition so that you could see that this was meant to be a forest. The transfer is gorgeously sharp throughout and I really could find little fault with the general nature of the transfer. Whilst it may not have been the most superb shadow detail I have ever seen, it was still very good and suited the style of the production very well indeed. A wonderfully clear transfer, there does no appear to be any issue with grain here at all. There was just the odd hint on a couple of occasions of low level noise in the transfer, but they were not that noticeable and certainly did not detract from the overall appearance of the transfer.

    Whilst they may not be the brightest colours I have ever seen, they certainly rank very highly in the vibrancy stakes. This really is a terrifically vibrant transfer with some gorgeous colour separation. I have rarely seen such a glossy vibrant transfer and would probably have to go back to The Negotiator to be as much impressed by the style of the transfer as here. There is a wonderfully smooth tonal depth to the colours, including the blacks, with the result that even the subtle colourings come up really well in the overall transfer. There is nothing in the way of oversaturation here and even to suggest colour bleed is to seriously malign the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The only real problem with the transfer was some barely noticeable shimmering in the image at times, mainly in the backgrounds where there are lots of thin vertical lines to suggest the forest. Other than that there did not appear to be any film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. This transfer is as clean as a whistle with nothing at all in the way of film artefacts as far as I can see.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD and the layer change comes at 77:37. You cannot miss it - the Witch says "let her speak for herself", there is a long pause and finally the same sound comes back into play! This is tremendously disappointing as I would have thought that placing the layer change during the intermission between 81:55 and 82:48 would have been entirely feasible without compromising the quality of the transfer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the one soundtrack on offer on the DVD, rather unusually being an English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack. We get so used to having the Dolby Digital option that the absence of such a track is always noted, not that I am complaining mind you as the Linear PCM soundtrack is a pearler.

    The dialogue and vocals come up extremely well in the soundtrack and are always easy to understand. There did not seem to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    Since it is a Stephen Sondheim musical, naturally the music and lyrics comes from the gentleman. Wonderful stuff indeed here with some truly memorable songs, especially in Act Two.

    Naturally we are not talking about any surround or bass channel use here at all, and that really is the sole disappointment with the entire soundtrack, but we cannot expect the soundtrack to be something that it is not. What it is is a nice open, spacious sounding effort that whilst being quite brightly balanced is very convincing and enormously suited to the musical entertainment. Without a hint of problem, it is undoubtedly a very good example of the Linear PCM sound format.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Absolutely nothing at all. What a shame, but presumably there was not an awful lot of room left on the DVD after the quality of the transfer mastering on offer here.


    Pretty woeful looking actually, very bland and very staid - and unbelievably without the option of "Play Feature" included on the main menu. If you want to start the feature, you have to go to the chapter selection menu and select either Chapter One or Program Start. Not even the play button alone seemed to get this one started. I don't think I have ever come across this before on a DVD and it really is mind-bogglingly idiotic not to have a "Play Feature" option on the main menu as far as I am concerned.

R4 vs R1

    It would seem that this is pretty much identical to the Region 1 release (which is actually a Region 0 release I believe), which would make Region 4 the choice given PAL formatting. There were no substantive reviews available to make a comparison of the audio and video transfers.


    Into The Woods ended up being one of those surprises that we occasionally hit upon as reviewers, and I am very glad that it fell to me to review for whatever reason. A very good video transfer, denied reference quality only by the slight shimmer and the odd lapse in focus, matched to a bright and airy audio transfer that really ensures that you catch every little witticism in the performance. I will even excuse the lack of extras in this instance. Well worth taking a look at this one, yes indeedy.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
26th January 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL