"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," which opens on Monday, is a tour show.
The Muny's artistic director and executive producer,
"Every once in a while, something comes along that's worth breaking all the rules for," he said. "This is one of those things.
"'Porgy and Bess' is arguably one of the greatest works of 20th-century art. Imagine that, and imagine that Gershwin score, under our trees and stars.
"We weren't going to let the chance go by."
The tour that's coming here is the celebrated production that director
They're the ones, after all, who will be in the house. When they hear songs like "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "I Got Plenty of Nothing," she hopes they'll love them for how they sound and feel, present-tense, not just for the memories they evoke.
Paulus has no problem with revivals -- just the opposite. Three shows that she directed won Tony awards for best revival: "Hair" in 2009, "Porgy and Bess" in 2012 and "Pippin" in 2013. For that one, Paulus also claimed her own Tony, for director of a musical; it plays the
"When I direct a piece from the repertoire -- whether it's 'Don Giovanni' or 'Hamlet' or 'Hair' -- my goal is to make it feel immediate and present," she said in a phone conversation from
"I don't want the audience to feel they're watching something that was created many moons ago. I want it to feel visceral and immediate. I don't want them to have to peer through layers of gauze, separating the work from the audience.
"I want them to feel as if it's brand-new and was made just for them."
Paulus, 48, has been shaping plays for contemporary sensibilities since she burst onto the scene in 1999 with "The Donkey Show," a disco treatment of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that she created with her husband, theater artist and producer
"'Midsummer' usually seems rather sweet," Paulus recalled, "but Oberon, the fairy king, drugs his wife to make her love a donkey. That is not so sweet!
"The drugs, the sexual hijinks, the way the characters disappear into the forest and change identities -- it all made us think of Studio 54 in its heyday, when a busboy from Queens could dance with
Shakespeare, of course, is so often reinterpreted that it's almost a shock to see a traditional production, with a Renaissance setting and doublets. Nobody gets excited any more.
But the Gershwin brothers, composer George (1898-1937) and lyricist Ira (1896-1983), are not so remote, and the idea of fiddling with their masterpiece troubled some people. One of them was the leading light of modern musical theater,
In a long letter to
Nobody could, Paulus agrees. "We did not make that change," she said. "The Gershwin estate did that years ago. I keep saying that over and over, but nobody knows it."
Sondheim did praise the choice of stars,
"Alicia and Nate have been with the show since the first reading," said Paulus, giving them a long view of the legendary lovers and their world on Charleston's fictional "
"There's a hurricane, there's a murder, there's a powerful love story between people who are willing to look beyond labels," Paulus said. Everyone on
In Paulus' mind, that community must ultimately include the audience at each performance. "In everything I do," she said, "I want to embrace the audience -- the people who are actually present in the seats."
'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess'
Where -- The Muny in
How much --
More info -- 314-361-1900; muny.org
(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services