Disney is neutering Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods in predictably Disney ways. At first glance Sondheim's musical about storybook characters is cheery, but then you get into the dark second act, which features adultery and plenty of death. Just not necessarily in the Disney version
In a Talk of the Town piece in this week's New Yorker, Sondheim himself revealed the changes, when talking to a group of drama teachers who had been putting on Sondheim's shows even in the face of administrational backlash. Sondheim said—via Playbill.com—that "you will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the baker's wife." He added that the song "Any Moment," in which Cinderella's prince seduces the baker's wife, is "probably cut." When a teacher posed that a school administration objected to Into the Woods because of the "infidelity, a wolf being lascivious, that the whole connection with Red Riding Hood is sexual," Sondheim said that "Disney had the same objections."
These plot changes also raise questions about other elements of the show, including a big turn for the Witch played in the film by Meryl Streep, who after learning of Rapunzel's death sings her "Lament." What, if anything, will she be lamenting now? Though Disney looks to be aiming for Oscar with this one—the movie opens on Christmas—the studio also appears to be frustratingly taking the edge out of the show, which—despite Sondheim's great songs—can feel trite without the weight of the second act's horrors.