This is a part of The Stage to Screen Blogathon, hosted by The Rosebud Cinema and Rachel’s Theater Reviews . For more great reviews of theater production adaptations for the screen, be sure to visit their pages!
Into The Woods
Composed by Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Playwright: James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim
Movie Directed by Rob Marshall
Screenplay by James Lapine
“You’re so nice. You’re not good, your not bad, you’re just nice.”
I have never seen Into The Woods on stage. Yet, thanks to the Public Broadcasts video production, I know it really well. Actually, thanks to my cousins, and PBS… because it was my cousins who introduced me to it in the first place.
I have fond memories of watching the video with them over, and over, and over again. Because I have only ever known the Broadway cast, Tom Aldredge, Kim Crosby, Chip Zien, Ben Wright, Joanna Gleason, Barbara Bryne, Danielle Ferland, Robert Westenberg, Chuck Wagner, and Bernadette Peters. For me, those actors ARE their roles, and while I can see them in other roles just fine (love Westenberg in The Secret Garden, and Bernadette Peters is just a favorite all around), I know it will be hard to see their roles in Into The Woods played by others. So, I am more than a little worried about the upcoming Disney production of Into The Woods.
And the concerns that I have about this production really boil down to what I’ve seen as the largest stumbling blocks for a screen-adaptation of a stage-based-musical.
There are two big fears that I hear from family and friends who are fans, and they are my two biggest fears as well. First is the fear that there will be cast members who cannot sing the roles as they should be sung. For instance, I am not expecting Meryl Streep to sing the witch like Bernadette Peters, I want her to make it her own — but will she be able to do the role justice? Are we going to end up with actors in roles that just can’t do it justice? (Like in Phantom, or Les Miserable)? It’s a real concern for those of us raised on the powerful performances of the PBS production.
The other concern is rearrangement. Though based in fairy tales, Into The Woods is a much darker story, one that digs deeper into human nature. It deals with adultery, death, discrimination, right and wrong, good and bad, fear and loss…. I’ll dig more into the story itself in November for a Fairy-Tale Blogathon, but for now just the fact that it is Disney, doing this production, I worry about how “cleaned up” it might be. There have been rumors of songs cut, plots shifted, and I know that I am not the only one anxious to see if my favorite songs and moments will remain in tact.
There are certainly some benefits to putting on productions like this on the screen. Like in RENT, Evita and even Phantom, the location can take a more prominent role. The woods are a character, alive and threatening, and the movie can really play this up in ways that the stage production couldn’t.
At this point all I know is that I like the trailer, I think the staging of the show is going to be excellent. It’s just a matter of waiting, waiting to see if the voices can live up to what I want them to be, if the songs and story are left in tact enough (or the changes made are ones that I can stand). Also, as I’ve realized with the other musicals I’ve looked at this week, it’s a question of if, after the initial adjustment period, this movie will be one I will want to watch again. I still go back to the PBS version, will the Disney production be worthy of that? Or, like the movie version of Phantom, will it be one that I don’t really pay all that much attention to as the years go by?
Time will tell.