Talking to people about novels, stage, and screen–and especially after the Oscars– I thought Beth’s article on this topic was timely and very interesting. Take a read.
Taking plays like Into the Woods from the Stage to the Screen
By Beth Kelly
The concept isn’t particularly groundbreaking – a successful literary work, stage play, or show is adapted into a feature film presentation to celebrate and recognize the title’s impact on the arts. With varying success, the transformation has been done before with such stage shows as Ragtime, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, Funny Girl, Dial M for Murder and Grease finding their way into the annals of nee-legendary motion picture history. Literature lovers will also recognize Ragtime, The Color Purple and Les Miserables as productions that saw their first iteration, the novel, transformed for the stage and then again for the screen.
Joining the membership roster of this genre that caters specifically to passionate readers and theatre-goers is the new adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, currently playing in multiplexes everywhere. The musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986, going on to premiere on Broadway on November 5, 1987. This production of Into the Woods, featuring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife, would win several Tony Awards including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical (Gleason)…all in a year overshadowed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s seminal work Phantom of the Opera. The main characters are taken from the pages of fairy tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella”, in addition to several others. Utilizing these familiar faces from Brothers Grimm, Sondheim formed a plot line that features a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family. Along the way they encounter an evil witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interactions with other storybook characters in the woods.
Whenever any director attempts to adapt a legendary stage performance into a motion picture, politics invariably become involved, obscuring either director’s initial creative intent. In the case of Rob Marshall and Stephen Sondheim, after the critical and commercial success of Chicago in 2002, Marshall approached Sondheim with the intent of adapting one of his musicals such as Follies or Sweeney Todd for the big screen.As it turned out, Sondheim would suggest Into the Woods for him instead. While the film has not been without controversy, it is already highly popular among theatre-goers.
The film version of Into the Woods, directed by Rob Marshall and adapted to the screen by James Lapine, stars Meryl Streep as a once-beautiful witch, James Corden as the baker and Emily Blunt as his wife. According to this new adaptation, three days before the rise of a blue moon, the couple venture “into the woods” to find the ingredients that will reverse a spell and restore the Witch’s beauty. In June 2014, Sondheim revealed that Disney decided to make some major plot changes to the film in order to make it more “family-friendly,” and he had acquiesced. Sondheim, having later seen it himself, released a statement saying that the film is indeed a faithful adaptation of the musical; racier sections such as the Prince character’s affair with the Baker’s wife, the song “Any Moment”, and Rapunzel’s bitter end all stayed in the picture. Director Marshall told Entertainment Weekly that fans “should not worry about any changes made,” and that “it will all be very clear when people see (the film).”
To be continued …
Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger and writer based in Chicago, IL. A lifelong musical theater fan, she holds a degree in Communications and Media from DePaul University. In her free time she loves gardening, film photography, and volunteering with rescue animals. Follow her on Twitter @ bkelly_88