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Australian Production of "Company" almost shut-down by an unhappy Stephen Sondheim

don't make unauthorized cuts to plays and musicals
No Cuts Allowed!

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Australia's First and Only National Musical Theatre Company”, Kookabura, almost had a problem on its hands when its artistic staff made cuts to Stephen Sondheim‘s “Company”.
Stephen Sondheim was not pleased with "cuts" made to his musical, "Company"The cuts, which involved removal of key songs, scenes and dialogue, was characterized by some as a last-minute ‘hatchet job' to Sonheim's script in Wednesday night's performance at the Theatre Royal.

Upon learning of the changes, which were made after a key cast member called in sick, the author threatened to terminate the theatre's license to perform the show. It seems loyal Sondheim fans were unhappy at seeing the abridged production, and reported the situation to Sondheim's representatives. According to some sources, the cast and director also expressed their distaste for the changes.

The situation highlights the importance of faithfully rendering a show as the author envisioned it. It is a violation of both the “moral rights” of the author, and the terms of most license agreements to make even the most minor changes.

Although it is common for school, church, and community theatres to alter shows' content to suit their and their audiences' tastes, doing so is technically a violation. Although licensors sometimes look the other way, they're within their rights to withdraw permission and stop a production in its tracks. Obviously, this is a costly proposition for a theater company with tens- or even hundreds of thousands of dollars sunk into a production.

The bottom line is this: if changes are desired, ask permission from the licensor. Some authors are very flexible, while others, like Sondheim, view even the smallest change as an adulteration of their work, akin to censorship, or the removal or addition of elements from a classic painting.

2 Responses to Australian Production of "Company" almost shut-down by an unhappy Stephen Sondheim

  1. WTF???? This is madness! Music is a gift of creativity meant to be shared and kept alive and passed on and re-created in new form. Music is the Universal Language of the soul, Language is not licenced when shared so why would music be? Poetry or novels when read more than once by the original purchaser of the piece is not liscenced, the creation of a new tax law that is read and distributed nationally does not require a liscence (why not?)
    The burdon of proof of ownership should be solely with the fee imposers when imposing fees for all public sharing of music. The fact that it doesnt have to be proven to be ownership of a particular entity is outrageous! That would mean that if i own a few publishing companies and there are people reading works that are of unclear origin that I should receive a liscencing fee just in case I may own it…..Really??? WTH???

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