He wrote it in a hurry.
Last Edit: ShowGoer 02:19 pm EDT 03/31/21
Posted by: ShowGoer 02:16 pm EDT 03/31/21
In reply to: re: Exactly... but is the Witch the one truth-teller of this fairy tale? - Chromolume 12:47 pm EDT 03/31/21

Let's face it: for all that's good in it, the whole show is a bit of a mess, and unlike other pieces of his that reveal themselves more on repeat viewings, this one always seems a bit shallower the more I encounter it.

That said, the song was written not just after the pre-NY tryout, but halfway through Broadway previews. I remember seeing a performance only about two weeks before the Broadway opening (and at a time when NY preview periods were a bit shorter than they often are these days: 1st performance Sept. 29th, 1987, opening Nov. 5th).... and Peters was still performing a rather dour, unmelodic and certainly non-showstopping number called "Boom! Crunch!". Much the same idea as "Last Midnight", but audiences were not just confused about the content, they were confused why Bernadette Peters didn't have a real final song or 11 o'clock number (bearing in mind this was the season after she won her first Tony for "Song and Dance", which had her alone onstage for an hour that was basically entirely comprised of 11 o'clock numbers, or at least half a dozen of them).

I can't remember what exactly Sondheim says about it in his book, but from the outside looking in, it would seem that given the time crunch, and with the story beats long since in place and not able to be easily changed, Sondheim re-purposed much of the general idea of "Boom! Crunch!', warts and all, and just added a little more showbiz. This was certainly the right decision - it gave the Witch a real exit, Peters got a big hand, anyone who understood the witch's motivations in the slower song would get what she was up to in the new one, and those who didn't would still feel ride on the build of a big finish.

But Sondheim was long past his golden days of being able to write and re-write feverishly throughout previews with much of his best material coming in last-minute (Company, Follies, etc.) – let's not forget he only premiered one musical on Broadway after this one, and including off-Broadway, 3 new shows total in the nearly 35 years since then) – so in my opinion it never quite gelled. Nonetheless, and even taking into account the confusion that many people have with the number to this day, a second-rate last-minute Sondheim song added 2 weeks before opening night got the job done more than it would with most other writers.
Link https://www.playbill.com/article/from-boom-crunch-to-the-last-midnight-how-into-the-woods-transformed-throughout-the-years-com-335786

Previous: TOTALLY AGREE about the "your so nice" section. Some of the strongest / most compelling writing in the entire show. (nm) - GrumpyMorningBoy 10:34 am EDT 04/01/21
Next: re: He wrote it in a hurry. - Chazwaza 09:09 pm EDT 03/31/21

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