The touring revival of "Porgy and Bess" opens in Shea's a week from today. Its book was adapted from the original opera by Suzan-Lori Parks, who, along with director Diane Paulus, came under considerable criticism for retooling what many consider to be one of the greatest American works of art in the 20th century.
In my interview with the Pulitzer-winning playwright late last year, she explained her philosophy behind why it made sense to to correct some of the parts of the opera she and many of its critics considered to be "less than accurate." Here are her thoughts:
It would be as if, maybe, as if somebody wrote a musical about say, I don’t know, pick a group, Jewish folks who live on the Lower East side of Manhattan, you know? And they weren’t really, really, really in the community and they got some things less than accurate. And so the [Gershwin] estate was asking that we just improve it -- or not improve it, that’s kind of a harsh word -- but make it something that everybody can enjoy. And I’ve gotta say, the proof is in the play, because I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people from actors in the show to people in the street stop me in the street and say: 'You know, I always loved the music, but I couldn’t stand the story. And now I love both.' People of all races and creeds are loving it, the whole thing, now.