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Once upon a time, in a far-off place, an ensemble of some of Hollywood’s most talented singers, actors and performers gathered on a soundstage to run through lines, practice harmonies, and assemble what would eventually become Rob Marshall’s Into The Woods. You will be able to see the fruit of their labor on Christmas Day when the Stephen Sondheim musical blasts into movie theaters nationwide. But at least one high-profile cast member is glad that you didn’t see the preparation that went into the creation of the movie musical, because things weren’t always so rosy on Into The Woods.
We were lucky enough to speak with Emily Blunt, who plays The Baker’s Wife in Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Sondheim’s award-winning musical. Her character has been cursed by a vengeful witch (played by Blunt’s The Devil Wears Prada co-star, Meryl Streep), and must venture into the woods to collect a series of magical fairy-tale items to remove the spell and possibly conceive a child. I had an unusual question for Blunt, though. Seeing as how Into the Woods is completely sung, and juggles multiple parts held by a sprawling ensemble, I asked her if they had a traditional table read for the movie, and how that worked.
She explained that they actually did hold a table reading, but only after weeks of rehearsal "so we could get over the fact that we were sort of showing our underwear to each other, you know, singing in front of each other." The way she described it, they all sat around an enormous table and sang their songs, accompanied by one man on a piano. They all stared at their script pages, "pretending to look at our lines" and getting used to not being embarrassed. Eventually, the "company," as Blunt called them, started to drop their pretense and allowed themselves to go all out. And they prayed that it would all work out.
Initially, though, it didn’t.
As Emily Blunt remembers it, the first time they all got together to perform the multi-role prologue, they "totally screwed it up!" She told me:
The first time we did the prologue, our musical director, this wonderful man named Paul Gemignani, who is this huge guy who always wears these big ‘70s glasses, turned to us and said, ‘Well, that was a disaster!’ [Laughs] He thought that was just awful. But we got better!"
They did, indeed. The cast handles multiple major numbers throughout the course of Rob Marshall’s big-screen musical, with Blunt herself holding down a beautiful number "It Takes Two" with co-star James Corden. It sounds like this:
Emily Blunt has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for her work on Into The Woods, which opens everywhere on December 25.