This year the message has been sent out along the Rialto:
Don’t bring back a show as is!
Fix it, tweak it, and make it brand spanking new to keep it relevant.
Make it better!
After all, Godspell came back with all new jokes about Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and Lindsay Lohan, and I actually thought that was fine since the show is a dizzying grab bag of shtick in the first place.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has been revised so that the female therapy patient is now a gay man who used to be a woman. The male analyst falls in love with the past-life lady and in turn the gay man falls in love with the male analyst. This is for those who thought the original plot was too simple (though I welcome any gay infusion, even if the Times said this particular revisal was like a day spent in an MRI).
And coming any minute now, Porgy and Bess made some changes the director assured us George Gershwin would have adored, but they wound up restoring the original ending, perhaps sensing that the authors knew what they were doing after all. Whatever the result, it’s become a must-see because of the talent involved — and the curiosity factor! I bet even Sondheim buys a ticket.
Whether changes are really called for in a classic musical can only be judged on a case-by-case basis, partly depending on whether the authors are alive and willing to have their work tampered with, without a gun to their head.
Still, I’d just like to see one show revived the way it was written. It would show such wonderful faith!
But not Pippin. That one needs work.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 13, 2011