It’s musical adaptation day at Film School Rejects! Everyone, jazz hands! Earlier today, I was perhaps hysterically excited over the news that screenwriter John Logan would be adapting Jersey Boys for the big screen, but this latest adaptation news has landed on my all-singing, all-dancing heart like a block of lead.

Rob Marshall has just signed on to direct a cinematic adaptation Stephen Sondheim‘s Into the Woods for The Walt Disney Company. James Lapine, who wrote the musical with composer Sondheim, will pen the screenplay. The play is a bit of a no-duh fit for Disney, as anyone who is familiar with the work will attest. The play “weaves together the story of several of the most beloved fairytales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel) into the original story of a Baker and his wife who try to reverse a curse on their family in order to have a child, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests and their desire for ‘happily ever after.’” Fairytales with a twist? Yup, that sounds like something Hollywood is into right now, and Disney definitely has a vested interest in Cinderella and Rapunzel.

Into the Woods earned ten nominations at the 1988 Tony Awards, with wins that included Best Score and Best Book of a Musical. The play returned with a 2002 Broadway revival that won a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. With a pedigree like that, it’s a wonder that it’s yet to get a big-screen launch. But the pick of Marshall is not exactly heartening.

Today’s announcement also came with the news that Marshall and his production company with John DeLuca, LUCAMAR, has also signed a multi-year producing agreement with Disney. It’s not surprising in the least that Disney would want to stay in the Rob Marshall business, as their last collaboration, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides delivered over $1b in worldwide box office revenue and is the 8th highest-grossing film of all time. I’ve never been a fan of the Pirates series, and On Stranger Tides struck me as the worst of the bunch – boring and bloated and without any sort of flash.

Broadway choreographer Marshall’s star went on the rise his 2002 cinematic adaptation of Chicago, which earned $300m and thirteen Academy Award nominations and six wins (including Best Picture). But Marshall’s subsequent work has not matched the promise of Chicago – On Stranger Tides aside, there was also a flat adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha and a terrible all-star reworking of Nine (a film that I found so horrible as to be laughable).

Marshall is, however, a six-time Tony Award nominee, including nominations for choreographing and co-directing the 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret. And while I am not a fan of any of his post-Chicago work, his Broadway background is surely what elevated that adaptation to its award-winning status, something he should hope to duplicate with Into the Woods. [Press Release]


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