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'Porgy and Bess': Producers respond to Sondheim slam

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Broadway’s upcoming revival of the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess — featuring a new ending and fleshed out backstories for the characters — already has one vocal critic: Stephen Sondheim. On Tuesday, the New York Times received a letter from the legendary composer-lyricist, in which he bashes the new production’s plans for revamping the classic show. “[T]here is a difference between reinterpretation and wholesale rewriting,” wrote Sondheim, who added that the new work should call itself Diane Paulus’s Porgy and Bess, after its new director, instead of its current title, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. (Sondheim also noted that this title negates the role of librettist and lyricist DuBose Heyward.)

The producers of the new show aren’t staying quiet. Today, they sent an official statement on the matter to EW, maintaining their support for the production and their respect for the show’s authors — including Heyward. “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.”

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which will star Audra MacDonald and Norm Lewis, starts previews Dec. 17 in Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre.

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