'Into the Woods': How the Movie Differs from the Stage Musical

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Gwynne Watkins
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Into the Woods-James Corden-Emily Blunt-Meryl Streep
Into the Woods-James Corden-Emily Blunt-Meryl Streep

James Corden, Emily Blunt, and Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

Just like you have to break some eggs to make an omelet, you have to cut some songs to make a Broadway show into a film musical. Into the Woods fans needn’t panic, however; despite rumors to the contrary, Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical has made it to the screen largely intact. Rob Marshall’s fantasy film (in theaters Christmas day) follows a group of fairy-tale characters, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), a wicked witch (Meryl Streep), and Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), who journey into the woods to seek their happy fates – and soon discover there are strings attached.

That the screenplay is faithful to the play is not surprising, since it’s the work of original book writer James Lapine and composer Sondheim, both of whom won Tony Awards for Into the Woods. That said, the film is half an hour shorter than the original production, and features a few significant changes. Below, we answer all your questions about the stage-to-screen differences in one spoiler-filled post.

Which songs have been cut?
Like the original show, the movie is mostly sung through – but some songs have been streamlined, and a few have been cut altogether. These excised tunes include Jack’s song “I Guess This is Goodbye,” Rapunzel and the Witch’s song “Our Little World”(added to the show after the first Broadway run), the Baker’s ballad “No More,” the reprise of the Princes’ song “Agony,” the “First Midnight” and “Second Midnight” interludes, the Act I finale “Ever After” (which appears only as an instrumental), and the Act II Prologue. The Act II finale is sung over the closing credits.

Mandy Patinkin sings “No More,” one of the songs cut from the Into the Woods film.

What songs have been added?
None. Stephen Sondheim wrote a duet for the Baker and Baker’s Wife called “Rainbows” that was briefly rumored to be in the film, and he composed another song, “She’ll Be Back,” specifically for Meryl Streep’s Witch. Neither song made the final cut, though director Rob Marshall did film the Witch’s song.

Which characters have been cut?
The Mysterious Man and Narrator no longer appear as characters in the story.

Is the ending less of a downer?
Slightly. The second act has been shortened, and one main character who dies in the play – Rapunzel – survives the movie. Rumors that the film was “Disney-fied” with a happy ending have been greatly exaggerated, and the most agonizing loss (see what we did there?) remains.

Anna Kendrick as Cinderella sings “On the Steps of the Palace,” which was revised for the film.

What else has changed?
• The event that transforms the Witch is partially shown, as is Red’s journey through the Wolf’s belly and Jack’s beanstalk trip.

• The hazel tree by Cinderella’s mother’s grave has been changed to a willow tree.

The jokes about Jack’s stupidity and his mother’s looks have been softened.

“On the Steps of the Palace” has been rewritten in the present tense.

The Baker’s father appears only as a memory.

Rapunzel does not bear children, nor does she suffer from crippling depression.

Cinderella does not plan another festival.

The princes do not find new princesses.

Little Red does not wish death on Cinderella’s family. Their fate at the end remains unknown.

The Giant doesn’t drop her glasses.

The Witch is more sympathetic (and doesn’t eat any bugs).

The Wolf and Prince are not played by the same actor, as is the usual practice onstage.

Watch the Into the Woods trailer below.