No dead Rapunzel, no horny Wolf: Stephen Sondheim reveals plot changes in Disney's 'Into the Woods'

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Image Credit: Peter Mountain

There was no way Disney’s upcoming film adaptation of Into the Woods was going to keep every single line, lyric and plot point of Stephen Sondheim’s original musical. And now Sondheim himself has confirmed exactly what we will—or won’t—be seeing.

Playbill reports that Sondheim revealed the changes during a chat with a group of high school arts educators. The subject came up after one teacher brought up Into the Woods, expressing concerns that some of its plot points aren’t appropriate material for students to perform. “Well, you’ll be happy to know that Disney had the same objections,” Sondheim replied. For the record, here’s how he stands on the issue of watering down stage productions—in schools and, presumably, other arenas as well: “Censorship is part of our puritanical ethics, and it’s something that [students are] going to have to deal with,” said Sondheim. “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.”

Here are a few bits Sondheim revealed about what’s in store for the forthcoming film adaptation:

No “Any Moment”
The Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt) and Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine) sing this light ballad when they meet deep in the woods, right before they begin a fleeting affair. Well, that affair is no more. Sondheim said the song is “probably cut,” as is the one night stand itself. (It’s not yet clear what this means for “Moments in the Woods,” the solo that the Baker’s Wife sings after her encounter with the Prince.)

A significantly less horny Wolf
One of the musical’s most belovedly creepy relationships is shared between Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and the Wolf (Johnny Depp). The characters encounter each other much as they do in the original fairy tale, but the Wolf’s song, “Hello, Little Girl,” is loaded with sexual innuendo. This story thread, specifically, is what Sondheim was referring to when mentioning Disney’s “objections” to Woods.

Rapunzel lives!
Tragedy strikes the show’s fairy tale characters when Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) gets crushed beneath the foot of the angry, runaway giant in Act Two. “You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed,” explained Sondheim, who replotted the story with James Lapine (the show’s scribe and the screenplay writer) and covered the hole with a new song. It’s likely the one penned specifically for Meryl Streep’s Witch, who is Rapunzel’s would-be protector; Sondheim also wrote another new song, “Rainbows,” for the film.

Now, before we all jump to conclusions, let’s remember a few things. One: We knew this would probably happen—the show is loaded with innuendo and adult themes, as is the norm for Sondheim’s great works. There was never a scenario in which the entire show would make it to the screen unedited. Two: Lapine and Sondheim’s involvement in the Rob Marshall-directed film should still be a great comfort. Perhaps it’s because of their veteran pedigree, but it’s a sign of good faith when a musical’s authors are as directly involved with a movie as they are. Three: We haven’t even seen a trailer yet. There’s no reason to assume, based only on this information, how the movie will turn out—frankly, I’m still utterly excited about it. And four: If you don’t like it, you can always re-watch the original stage production over and over and over again on Netflix. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

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