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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Into & Out of the Woods

It would seem legendary Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim became entangled in a thicket of words when The New Yorker claimed to quote him about the Disney version of Into the Woods, the version of Sondheim's musical that company is bringing to the silver screen. (The film will be released Christmas Day and stars personal favorites Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Christine Baranski and Tracey Ullman among others.)

Addressing a group of high school drama teachers, Sondheim was quoted by The New Yorker as saying: "You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the [Baker's Wife]." He also told his audience that the song, "Any Moment" was cut and that Disney brass warned him, "'we don't want Rapunzel to die,' so we replotted it. I won't tell you what happens, but we wrote a new song to cover it."

News of this in the press instantly caused an uproar among musical-theater lovers!

Today, Broadway World reported that Sondheim quickly gave a rebuttal with this press statement:

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."

Now what do we make of this whole brouhaha? Seems like a bit of back-peddling out of the dark forest if you ask me. I mean, this is otherwise some serious misquoting on the part of The New Yorker. Did panicked Disney execs turn Grimm and put Sondheim up to this? Did he suddenly remember he's getting a percentage of the profits? What gives?

Into the Woods was shot at Shepperton Studios in the UK and is directed by Rob Marshall who also directed Chicago (which I was disappointed in for a list of reasons) and Nine (which I rather enjoyed). We shall see if this is a "first-rate movie" come Christmas, and whether Everything's Coming Up Roses once we're deep Into the Woods.

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