Much as Game Of Thrones fans were outraged at a crucial book omission in the season finale, musical theater aficionados are being thrust into a similar state of discombobulation this afternoon. According to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, Disney’s upcoming adaptation of his dark fairy tale musical Into The Woods won’t be so dark after all—but rather, decidedly more Disney.
Speaking with a group of high school drama teachers, Sondheim revealed that the movie will feature some major plot changes. In the stage musical, the fairy tale characters find their happy endings at the end of Act One, only to realize they aren’t quite as content as they expected in Act Two. The musical takes a decidedly dour turn as disaster strikes the kingdom and bodies begin to rack up. Into The Woods essentially argues that the wish fulfillment of fairy tales has no application in the real world, where “witches can be right, giants can be good,” and anyone can make mistakes. But it seems that may no longer be the case now that Disney has their hands on the property.
MAJOR SPOILERS for the Into The Woods musical and movie. According to Sondheim, Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) will not die as she does in the stage show. It’s unclear what will happen to the song “Lament,” which the Witch (Meryl Streep) normally sings about the deceased Rapunzel. Nor will Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine) seduce the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt); also “probably” cut is the song “Any Moment” that takes place during their sexual dalliance. No word on what will become of the Baker’s Wife’s big song “Moments In The Woods,” which takes place after the Prince leaves. Another potential blow to the original text: Sondheim said Disney objected to the sexual undertone of the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) stalking Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford). All in all, it seems Disney would just prefer that the bad and uncomfortable stuff in life stay hidden and repressed, proving it learned nothing from its own Frozen.
The upside for musical fans is that, due to Disney “replotting” the Rapunzel story, Sondheim wrote a new song to cover the changes—perhaps the new song Streep described a few months ago. For his part, Sondheim is taking a very practical stance. When asked by a teacher how to deal with students frustrated with performing sanitized versions of plays, Sondheim said their feelings were justified, but further advised:
You have to explain to them that censorship is part of our puritanical ethics, and it’s something that they’re going to have to deal with. There has to be a point at which you don’t compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality.
Too bad “dealing with reality” is no longer a lesson that can be learned from Into The Woods.
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