I did not include this in my general movie overview earlier this month because I felt it deserved its own post.
First, there was a huge uproar when we found out that Disney had cast Sophia Grace Brownlee as Little Red Riding Hood, opposite Johnny Depp's wolf. (see Io9's post as well)
1) People were concerned that it was stunt casting, because Sophia Grace is not an actress, but a child celebrity singer. 2) Sophia Grace is 10. I, like many of my colleagues on the internet, had interpreted the "Hello Little Girl" scene between the Wolf and Little Red, and her subsequent song "I Know Things Now," to be about sexual experience. "Hello Little Girl" uses culinary and sexual imagery in the same breath: "Think of that scrumptious carnality twice in one day." "I Know Things Now" describes how she got "excited and scared" when he "drew me close and he swallowed me down down a dark slimy path where lie secrets that I never want to know." It did not help that the wolf costume in the original Broadway production had a phallus, and that Robert Westenburg was highly suggestive:
On the other hand, in his interview for BroadwayWorld in 2011, Sondheim states that the theme of the play is about parents and children. As one of the two active children in the play, having Little Red as an actual child would enhance that theme. Depending on the interpretation, I could see this song played purely as a "beware of strangers" cautionary tale. I hoped that is the direction they were heading when they cast a 10 year old.
Disney recently swapped Little Reds, replacing 10 year old Sophia Grace with 12 year old Lilla Crawford, a stage actor with several Broadway shows under her belt.
This certainly addresses the first concern: stunt casting. Yet, however mature Lilla may be, 2 years (though an important 2 years) is not a huge difference. We can safely assume that Disney will not emphasize the sexual nature of the scene, but judging from the change, they are apparently taking the public's concerns into consideration.