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Disney Has Ruined INTO THE WOODS

Into the Woods Poster

Jeremy here with some spoilery bad news (so proceed with caution if you've never seen INTO THE WOODS)...

According to a depressing Playbill article, Stephen Sondheim has acceded to the censorial demands of the Walt Disney Company and made significant changes to the forthcoming big-screen version of INTO THE WOODS. Though this is easily Sondheim's most accessible show, the sexual innuendo that gives the musical a bit of a charge has been toned down at Disney's request. This explains director Rob Marshall's casting of the very young Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood; the studio probably had zero interest in presenting Johnny Depp as a libidinous Big Bad Wolf, and so the relationship between predator and prey will be nice and staid. As George S. Kaufman famously said, "Staid sells. That's why all those assholes went to see STATE FAIR."

Additionally, the affair between the Baker's Wife (Emily Blunt) and the Prince (Chris Pine) has been altered in that they no longer have an actual affair. And if you're wondering what this means for "Any Moment", the terrific number that bookends their dalliance, well, it means it's probably out of the show. Also, Rapunzel doesn't die in this version because perfect creative achievements need to be ruined.

I'm not surprised to hear any of this, but I am disappointed that Sondheim seems at peace with his compromises. Lapine evidently put up a fight over the exclusion of "Any Moment", but it doesn't sound like Sondheim threw any elbows of his own during the adaptation process.

All of this was revealed during a Sondheim Q&A with a group of musical theater teachers. When pressed on the need to water down thematically difficult work for high school students, Sondheim had this to say:

"But you have to explain to [your students] 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."

In dealing with reality, Sondheim has partnered in the poisoning of a masterpiece. Disney's INTO THE WOODS hits theaters on Christmas Day 2014.

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