By Mervyn Rothstein
15 Aug 2011
"Our team has worked together to get to the essence of the piece. We're choosing to strip away anything that feels dated, that doesn't serve the core action," at the same time keeping "the integrity of the music."
Diedre Murray is working on adapting the score, "because with every change made in the book, since it's a through-composed work, you have to sew it together."
(By Aug. 10, more than a month after Paulus was interviewed for this article, and after it was written, there was growing criticism, including from Stephen Sondheim, of the changes she and her team are making http://www.playbill.com/news/article/153542-Stephen-Sondheim-Comments-on-Broadway-Bound-Porgy-and-Bess-Revisions— the idea that the work needed strengthening or additional context, that the characters needed to be more realized. In response, on Aug. 11, Paulus issued the following statement: "The entire creative team and cast have the most enormous love and respect for Porgy and Bess, and we are grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from the Gershwin and Heyward Estates for this production.")
In fact, when Porgy arrived in Washington, DC, in 1936 at the totally segregated National Theatre — no blacks allowed — the cast, led by Todd Duncan, the original Porgy, refused to perform unless blacks were permitted in the audience. And for the show's brief run, the National Theatre was totally integrated.
|photo by Carl van Vechten|
"I know that Diedre and Suzan-Lori say there's no question in their minds this show was born of love for black people. What might feel to some as racist, they consider a 'shortcoming of understanding.' That's a beautiful way to put it."
Merv Rothstein's work is often seen in the pages of Playbill magazine and on Playbill.com. He pens the monthly A Life in the Theatre column.