When news broke that Into the Woods, one of the most popular works by the immensely celebrated Stephen Sondheim, would be made into a movie, there was plenty of excitement to go around. When that news included the fact that it would be produced by Walt Disney Studios, however, that excitement was more than a little dampened. Many fans, myself included, were worried that the squeaky clean company with a penchant for glossing over (or straight-up re-writing) anything objectionable in a fairy tale would make drasticchanges to the musical and its very adult overtones.
When Playbill released some comments Sondheim made regarding the film’s production, it seemed all our fears were realized.
So it turns out that The Princess Bride is gearing up for a Broadway production! No official word on whether the adaptation will be a musical or a play, but I’m willing to bet on musical since they’re more marketable on Broadway. The book-turned-movie tells the story of young lovers Westley and Buttercup and the epic, and often comical, obstacles they face to be with one another. They are joined by some excellent side characters, both villainous and friendly, to make a memorable and interesting adventure. The romantic narrative and character-heavy cast make this story ripe for musical adaptation… but what’s this? It’s being produced by Disney theatricals? Suddenly my bubble has deflated, though not quite burst entirely.
Here’s my issue: I really don’t love Disney’s stage productions. They usually have some great things going for them but I find them to often lack inspiration. On the less favorable end of the scale, The Lion King had some of the best stagecraft I’ve ever seen, but was word-for-word the script of the original movie and The Little Mermaid never satisfactorily solved the problem of depicting undersea movement on stage. On the other hand, Mary Poppins and Newsies quite successfully expanded on their film versions while still maintaining the vitality and spirit of the originals.
Disney taking on the job of adapting this film for the stage has great potential for success as well as failure, so here is what I feel is most promising and most concerning.