Once again, this column takes inspiration from the buzz around the Walt Disney Pictures' forthcoming film adaption of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Tony-winning 1987 musical Into The Woods. When a two-minute teaser trailer was recently released, there was uproar among Broadway fans. Some of the chatter was ridiculous — no one sang in the teaser, and Sondheim wasn't credited. Of course, there is singing in the movie (that's been widely reported from the beginning of production), and of course Stephen Sondheim will be properly credited. The teaser trailer was clearly and successfully created to sell this picture to a wide audience. Isn't that what we all want? Don't these hysterical defenders of Sondheim want his work to reach as many people as possible? There was also some (slightly) more serious concern about the trailer. Does the lack of singing (even in this short teaser) indicate a shift in focus away from the original stage musical? To put it bluntly, I hope so.
There certainly is cause for concern with any film adaptation of Broadway show. The two mediums are immensely different — even more so than we sometimes think. What works on stage may very likely not work on film. Some people believe this to be an absolute and for decades musical theatre was virtually forgotten as a source for screen development. Happily for us believers, this has shifted. Since the success of "Chicago" (like "Into The Woods," directed by Rob Marshall), Hollywood has rekindled its love affair with Broadway and given us such first-rate movie musicals as "Dreamgirls," "Hairspray" and "Sweeney Todd." But there have also been clunkers like "Nine" and "The Producers."
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