By Beth Kelly
Novel to film adaptations have become wildly popular over the past two years, but another growing trend is the transference of a storyline originally designed for the theater to grace the silver screen. Steven Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical, Into the Woods, is the latest to undergo the transformation and has theatergoers and film critics eagerly anticipating its release. Into the Woods is a twisted, darker take on classic fairy that includes a romantic encounter between the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, as well as well-known characters such as Rapunzel and Cinderella.
In its latest incarnation, Into the Woods is on the cusp of an entirely new audience and round of critiques, though the screenplay differs enough that there may not even be a true comparison to draw. Sondheim revealed that the film, which was produced by Disney, has undergone massive changes to make it more in line with the company’s family-friendly image. The general plot remains the same, with a baker and his wife suffering a curse from an evil witch and venturing off into the woods to find the ingredients for a cure. The majority of the mature content, such as the Wolf’s lust for Little Red Riding Hood, have been eliminated from the film version. Sondheim understands though, telling the NY Daily News, “You know, if I were a Disney executive I probably would say the same thing.”
Although the changes to the stage production may detract from its original context, Sondheim acknowledges the fact that compromising your work for mass consumption is just part of the territory. “There has to be a point at which you don’t compromise anymore,” he said during a recent interview in The New Yorker, “but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality.”
Fans of the original play will be able to draw their own conclusions on just how successful the adaption is when Into the Woods launches in theaters Christmas Day.
Take the leap for two other recent stage-to-screen adaptations…
While Into the Woods is currently at the center of the spotlight, it isn’t the first popular Broadway show in the silver screen spotlight.
Jersey Boys, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe opened on Broadway in 2005. The musical dramatizes the formation, successes, trials, and ultimate downfall of the 1960’s popular rock n’ roll group, The Four Seasons. It has been playing to sold-out houses since 2005, and over the summer was turned into a film by Clint Eastwood starring Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Steve Schirripa, and Christopher Walken (the full film is streamable on Amazon and DTV).
The Last Five Years is another beloved New York musical that has been adapted for the screen. The 2001 two-person musical by Jason Robert Brown making the crossover with the early 2015 adaptation written and directed by Richard LaGravenese. The film stars Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick in the female lead as a struggling actress in New York City, who sings about her failed love affair with a writer played by Jeremy Jordan (NBC’s Smash).
Beth Kelly is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger with a bad film addiction. She graduated from DePaul University before spending several years abroad teaching English. Her primary interests include pulp cinema, analog photography and antique Chinese flower paintings. Twitter: @bkelly_88