Stephen Sondheim doesn't want us to worry about Disney's adaptation of his musical Into the Woods.
Sondheim created consternation among his fans last week, when The New Yorker's Larissa MacFarquhar reported that he told a group of teachers that Disney made some pretty big changes to the show, which takes some pretty dark turns especially in its second act, to make it more palatable to audiences. But now, Sondheim is backpedalling.
In a statement, Sondheim insisted that "despite what the New Yorker article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive." He noted:
When the conversation with the teachers occurred, I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie. Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.
Sondheim also reassured that the "Prince's dalliance," in which he has an affair with the Baker's Wife, is still in the movie, along with the song that accompanies it: "Any Moment."
Not mentioned: whether or not Disney has saved the life of Rapunzel, who is trampled by a giant in the stage play. Sondheim had previously said that the movie would not feature her death.
Sondheim's statement doesn't totally allay fears that Disney has taken out some of the musical's harsher elements to create a less challenging, more widely appealing story, but it's a savvy bit of PR on everyone's part. Sondheim is a musical theater god, and if he says all is well, then maybe it is.