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Stephen Sondheim criticises Porgy and Bess adaptation

16th August 2011

A new stage adaptation of Porgy and Bess by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has been criticised by theatre supremo Stephen Sondheim.

Parks' new interpretation of the opera, which was first performed in 1935, is entitled The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, and includes deeper biographical examination of the lead characters and also suggests a more hopeful ending.

However, Sondheim, who is behind some of the most famous musicals ever created, including West Side Story and Sweeney Todd, said there is a difference between interpretation and 'wholesale rewriting' and claimed the protagonists are already sufficiently fleshed out.

In a letter to the New York Times, he wrote: 'These characters are as vivid as any ever created for the musical theatre, as has been proved over and over in productions that may have cut some dialogue and musical passages but didn't rewrite and distort them.'

Sondheim went on to clarify that he is not judging the production before it is staged, but is simply critical of the 'attitude of its creators toward the piece and the audience'.

The latest interpretation of the opera debuts at the American Repertory Theater in Massachusetts tomorrow night (August 17th), before transferring to Broadway later in the year.

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