Meryl Streep Casts a Spell: Into the Woods

Missing from Monday's lunch at The Leopard, Meryl Streep, wicked as an ugly witch in Rob Marshall's movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods, was on a train returning to the city from the Kennedy Center Honors. No matter. James Corden, who plays The Baker in the film's intertwining fairy tales, spontaneously fielded questions in her behalf, reminding everyone of her witch preparation as Margaret Thatcher. This was a golden moment, proof in fact, that the British actor will be perfect as Late Late Show host on CBS, filling Craig Ferguson's shoes when he retires. "They've made a big mistake," Corden quipped, nailing British self-deprecation. "They've been trying for years to keep people like me off television."

Emily Blunt, who plays The Baker's wife, and Anna Kendrick as the play's indecisive Cinderella also attended the luncheon, as did James Lapine who collaborated with Sondheim on the musical and wrote the screenplay, dining with Susan Lucci, Celia Weston, and many others on a freezing cold day. Blunt, barren in her role, was in fact pregnant for the entire shoot, a challenge for the great costume designer Colleen Atwood. Before lunch, I was instructed at the Leopard bar of the virtues of scotch for warmth. And so I tippled, which immediately upped my stock with Kendrick. Without skipping a beat, this Cinderella in a Disney movie snagged a sip.

Be careful what you wish for, this instant classic's theme, gave license for loose behavior of all kinds, and that extended to the premiere later on. Meryl's witch may be somewhat schizophrenic, being beautiful when transformed. And that's how she was at the Edison Ballroom, having slept in after the parties in Washington the night before. She went tete a tete with many well-wishers and fellow cast members including Lilla Crawford (Red Riding Hood), as Christine Baranski (Cinderella's Step Mother) held court at another table. Tracey Ullman (Jack in the Beanstalk's Mother) and charming Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel's Prince) partied hearty with guests Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt, Bob Balaban and Lynne Grossman. Emily Blunt wore a Dolce & Gabbana gown befitting a princess and showed pictures of her pretty baby Hazel. To the best that can be imagined, this Into the Woods will make all involved in its creation happy ever after.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.