The bottom line is that it is better to see theatre live. This is without a doubt the correct statement to make.
However, when it comes to film, is it better to see a filmed version of the stage play, or an adaptation of the show?
As an artist, I am torn between the two.
The purist in me wants to say, "If you have to, go with the lesser of two evils. Theatre on film, though it dies a little, is far better than an adaptation of the piece. You still get to see the original designs that were painstakingly executed, if it's a musical, you hear all the songs that were meant to be in the show, and the talent can often be better than what you see in a movie adaptation (though exceptions can be made...Thanks "Hoff")."
Many say that theatre dies on film. I take that to mean that you don't get the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the art and choose what you see. Film forces you to see what the cinematographer wants you to see, and that is fine. However, I have to agree that when theatre is reduced to the eye of a lense, your eyes cannot appreciate the full experience of the live show.
My appreciation of Mr. Burton aside, I felt that the cinematography and art direction gave the adaptation of Sweeney Todd the look that some stage productions had been lacking.
This is where the movie-buff in me says, "That is why film adaptations are better. A studio has the ability to throw millions of dollars at a project and have the best people working on it. True it might have songs cut that were in the stage play, but then you must remember that it is an adaptation. Everyone who has seen an adaptation knows that it is not the original production in mint condition. It is a re-imagining of something that we already know works."
However, this is not an argument that either side can win.
No matter which way you slice it there are sacrifices that are made when theatre is on film or even when it is adapted for the silver screen. I don't doubt that there will be some purists of Into the Woods who will compare and contrast the performances of Ms. Peters and Ms. Streep. Two wonderful performers doing the same role in totally different media.
I cannot say which witch will be better, for truth be told, it is impossible to compare. Though both of there performances have been captured on film, preserved for the world to view for years, they have both made the role their own.
So, is theatre on film better than film adaptations of theatre?
You tell me.