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We had already bought tickets for the new version of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater when Stephen Sondheim weighed in with an angry letter to the NY Times. He had not seen the show, but he apparently resented the tone of an article’s quotes from A.R.T. He may have thought director Diane Paulus and writer Suzan-Lori Parks were implying that they were better than the show’s original creators.

After the opening, Ben Brantley of the NY Times raved about Audra McDonald’s Bess while giving a mostly lukewarm review to everything else. Meanwhile, the student D.J. at Emerson College’s radio station kept reading promos for the show and pronouncing Porgy as “Porjy.” (He will always be Porjy to me now).

By the time our matinee rolled around, the day was almost too beautiful to be in a dark theater for three hours, and our initial anticipation had been reduced to mild curiosity.

So I’m happy to say we really liked A.R.T.’s Porgy — pretty much everything about it.

I admit that I am not intimate with the whole score and therefore was not always able to tell when new material had been inserted. (One line, about saving to send the baby to college, did come across with a loud, anachronistic clunk — but now a blog reader tells me it was in the original!) But the beauty of the songs, the dancing, the characters making the best of no-options, the love story! I cried pretty much the whole way through. And I’m still singing.

The only other Porgy and Bess I’d seen was directed by Bobby McFerrin in Minneapolis. It was long and kind of confusing, but I accepted that that’s the way opera often is. The A.R.T. may have presented a rejiggered story that was not true to the original, but it was a story that I could follow.

As I said to my husband on the way out, “Well, it worked for me.”

He said, “Sondheim should rethink his position.”

P.S. Audra McDonald was breathtaking.

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My son mentioned this Jane Scott obit the other day. He knows how much I like stories about older people who stay in the fray because they love their work. Writes the NY Times:

“In four happy decades as a rock writer for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ms. Scott, who died on Monday at 92, braved mud and mosh pits, foul weather and fouler language, ‘a drop of bleached blond and pink polyester in a roiling sea of blue denim and black leather,’ as The Philadelphia Inquirer once described her. …

“Ms. Scott, who took up her beat in 1964 at 45 and retired nine years ago at nearly 83, was often called the world’s oldest teenager, a description she hastened to correct. ‘Second-oldest,’ she would say. ‘After Dick Clark.’ …

“But what troubled Ms. Scott … was her inability to share her passion with her peers.

“ ‘I finally convinced a friend to come see Deep Purple with me,’ she told The Washington Post …. ‘I called her before the show to confirm, and she said, “Oh, Jane, I can still remember dancing with Ben at Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and we danced ‘When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls.’ ” ’

“ ‘I thought: “Oh dear. I hate to tell you …” ‘ Ms. Scott continued. ‘I ended up taking her grandson.’ ”

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