Hot new video: Meryl Streep sings the witch

Hot new video: Meryl Streep sings the witch


norman lebrecht

November 26, 2014

Disney has released a clip of the Hollywood actress going Into the Woods for Stephen Sondheim. The clip is prefaced by the kind of gush you expect on these trailers, but as soon as the movie plays there are flaws that grate the ear. Meryl Streep is a movie actress who sings a bit, not always on the note.

Watch. Listen.



  • May says:

    I thought it was great, and I’m a vocal coach by the way. A scary witch shouldn’t sing every note spot on, and her parlando choices are really quite expressive. Who knew that Meryl Streep could even sing? Brava!

  • Mikey says:

    Norman, I’m going to heartily disagree with you. Streep’s performance in this brief excerpt is fantastic. The Witch isn’t a “singing” role in “Into the Woods”. It isn’t the role that requires the beautiful operatic voice (that would be either Cinderella or Rapunzel).

    If you had seen the original Broadway production you’d know that Bernadette Peters originated the role and lord only knows HER voice grates, but the role doesn’t require a “great singer”, it requires a great actor who can hold a tune.

    Of course they’re going to gush about it. “Into the Woods” is a bona fide masterpiece of musical theatre. If they succeed with this film, it would be the very first time a Sondheim work has been PROPERLY brought to the silver screen.

  • JAMA11 says:

    Norman, I’m sure you recognize that musical theater and opera are not the same thing. Even the best singers will sacrifice perfect vocal technique to get a dramatic payoff, and most people would far, far prefer to see a musical with a great actor who can’t really sing than the other way around. On the other hand, many opera productions almost give up the pretense of being theatrical events per se, and they just plop their singers front and center to deliver gorgeous arias bereft of real dramatic impact. Many would say the music itself IS the drama, which is often true in opera, but rarely so in musical theater.

    If you’ve heard the famous, terrible recording of Bernstein conducting West Side Story with a cast of opera stars, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

  • Mikko says:

    I think Streep does well for herself. I have to say that I found new appreciation for Agnetha Fältskog after hearing Streep’s “Winner Takes It All” (for Mamma Mia), but even there, you can hear that Streep is playing the part very well. She’s just not Agnetha F or a trained opera singer.

  • Milka says:

    If this is grating on the ear wait
    until Ms. Streep does the Callas bio,
    and if truthful to the Callas sound she
    will be doing such yowling as to send
    us running for the hills .Ms. Streep with
    this sound bite sounds exactly as a
    Broadway musical actress singer is expected to sound.One wonders why Bernadette Peters was not called to reprise her sensational performance
    of the role . Suppose it is in not being the
    famous movie star.Ms. Streep may match the great Bernadette Peters ,
    it will be interesting to see .

  • Barbara Chasson says:

    Hello Norman,
    The Witch is not supposed to be ‘in tune’ with the World… that’s why she’s a witch!!! Meryl Streep does the role and sings as she should!
    Yours sincerely,
    Barbara (retired professional musician in the USA/Mexico/GB/Netherlands)

  • M2N2K says:

    This is just a brief excerpt of course, but Meryl Streep is definitely very good in it. The only words that are “not on the note” are the ones that she intentionally does in Sprechstimme style, and she delivers them convincingly and effectively. Her singing intonation here is spot on. She has always been and still remains a consummate professional.