Stephen Sondheim is one of America’s most prolific musical writers and artists. His works have spread out across decades and have touched theatergoers and “plebs” alike. You may have even heard some of his work and not have known it, which includes West Side Story, Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, and Assassins. However, another famous work is the fairy tale deconstruction Into the Woods which includes a variety of famous fairy tale characters along with a Baker and his wife, who needs to collect certain items for a witch in order to lift a curse that prevents them from having a child.
The movie version of this play was inevitable as Sondheim’s work is a fallback for many Hollywood production, to some success. Into the Woods was then greenlit by Disney, with Chicago and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides director Rob Marshall at the helm and a bevy of stars including Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Tracy Ullman and many more joining him.
Also, like any adaptation, some changes might be made, Sondheim himself stated as such in an earlier report this month that the shows darker tone (like many of Sondheim musicals) and some songs including “Any Moment” were cut. He also allegedly lamented that a certain character wouldn’t die (you’re welcome spoiler purists). In the wake of the news many fans of the show revolted, some writing off the film completely already and vowing to not see it over the alleged changes.
Well, the changes are more alleged today, after Sondheim cleared up confusion and got facts straight in a statement, he writes:
“An article in The New Yorker misreporting my “Master Class” conversation about censorship in our schools with seventeen teachers from the Academy for Teachers a couple of weeks ago has created some false impressions about my collaboration with the Disney Studio on the film version of Into the Woods. The fact is that James (Lapine, who wrote both the show and the movie) and I worked out every change from stage to screen with the producers and with Rob Marshall, the director. Despite what The New Yorker article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive.
When the conversation with the teachers occurred, I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie. Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.
And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince’s dalliance is still in the movie, and so is “Any Moment.””
That is potentially good news to Sondheim fans out there, and it is nice to know an artist of his stature was allowed to get involved and wanted to be involved in the adaptation of his work.
Anyhow, we will see what other changes (if any) there are when Into the Woods opens on Christmas Day.