Breaking News: Following Outcry About INTO THE WOODS Changes; Stephen Sondheim Releases Statement
Following an explosive Internet reaction to comments that Stephen Sondheim made in front of a group of high school drama teachers, first reported by The New Yorker, the legendary composer and lyricist has released a statement to explain and clarify what was previously reported.
An article in The New Yorker misreporting my "Master Class" conversation about censorship in our schools with seventeen teachers from the Academy for Teachers a couple of weeks ago has created some false impressions about my collaboration with the Disney Studio on the film version of "Into the Woods." The fact is that James (Lapine, who wrote both the show and the movie) and I worked out every change from stage to screen with the producers and with Rob Marshall, the director. Despite what the New Yorker article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive.
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.
And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince's dalliance is still in the movie, and so is "Any Moment."
Here's what was previously reported - [WARNING: Spoilers ahead!]
During the meeting, teachers shared their biggest challenges they face from school administrators over some of the more controversial elements of the show. As the composer responded to their concerns, he also revealed some plot changes that will be featured in the big screen version of the play.
When approached by one teacher about the controversial relationship between Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the stage production, Sondheim assured him, "Well, you'll be happy to know that Disney had the same objections." He went on to reveal, "You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the [Baker's Wife]."
Another issue brought up during the discussion was the number titled "Any Moment," which takes place as Cinderella's Prince meets the Baker's wife. Shared Sondheim, "The song is cut," but quickly clarified, "I'm sorry, I should say, it's probably cut." He went on to explain that Disney execs warned him, "we don't want Rapunzel to die', so we replotted it. I won't tell you what happens, but we wrote a new song to cover it."
Sondheim also spoke to the educators about the importance of explaining to students that censorship is something that is part of our heritage and won't soon disappear. "If you look at most plays, it's like the sonata form in music," he said. "If you screw around with that, you're taking your life in your hands." He also suggests that fighting censorship can lead to other complications. "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. You have to deal with reality."
The cast of INTO THE WOODS features Meryl Streep as The Witch, James Corden as The Baker, Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife,Johnny Depp as The Wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince, Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel, Lucy Punch as Lucinda, Tammy Blanchard as Florinda, Christine Baranski as Cinderella's Stepmother and Tracey Ullman as Jack's Mother, with Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and Daniel Huttlestone as Jack.
The film is set to be released on December 25, 2014.