Sondheim objects to ART’s ‘Porgy’

Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald rehearse for the American Repertory Theater’s Broadway-bound production of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” (Jennifer S. Altman/For The Boston Globe)

Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim is none too pleased with American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus’s plans for a reimagined version of “Porgy and Bess.’’ In a scathing 978-word letter sent to The New York Times, Sondheim attacked everything from the title of the upcoming ART production, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess’’ (“what happened to [“Porgy co-writer] DuBose Heyward?’’ he asks) to the new dialogue, characterizations, and ending given to “Porgy’’ by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

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Paulus, who is directing the musical, was not available to respond to the criticism, as she was in rehearsals for the show, which starts previews at the ART’s Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge on Wednesday before heading to Broadway later in the year.

In his letter, Sondheim blasts what he calls Paulus’s “condescension toward the audience.’’ He wraps up his screed by suggesting his own title. “In the interest of truth in advertising, let it not be called ‘The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,’ nor even ‘The Gershwin-Heyward Porgy and Bess.’ Advertise it honestly as ‘Diane Paulus’s Porgy and Bess.’ And the hell with the real one.’’ GEOFF EDGERS

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