Musical theater geeks, Carrie and I ditched our husbands one night over the holidays and headed to an independent movie theater in the east village to go see Into the Woods. While there was much to be excited about, including some stellar performances (hello, Chris Pine!), we couldn’t help but leave a little disappointed.
Not at first, mind you, but it creeped up on us, the more we thought about the sum of all of the film’s parts.
In fact, our friend who joined us, who is not as versed in musicals as we are, remarked that it was really boring and slow. To which we replied, “Wait until you see Sunday in the Park with George, or A Little Night Music.”
She asked if A Little Night Music was about vampires.
Sigh. If only.**
Anyway, it got us thinking about how important structure is to any work. While the acting, singing, and production were all great, what left us cold was the removal of the structure that made Into the Woods work so well on stage. Without most of the transitions, asides, and narration, some of the darker themes and allegories just didn’t come through. This was felt most deeply in between acts.
There should be a major shift and separation between happily ever after and what happens after happily ever after, which one could argue is the whole point of the play. If we, as the audience, don’t see and feel the frustration and disillusionment the characters experience, we can’t take that journey with them.
As writers, it was a good lesson about the importance of narrative arcs, structure, and transitions. Plus, did we mention Chris Pine?
*lyric from "I Know Things Now," from Into the Woods
** For the record, Assassins is our favorite Sondheim musical.