Sondheim agrees to sex change in revue

STEPHEN SONDHEIM, the wistfully sentimental composer of such musical hits as Sweeney Todd and Anyone Can Whistle, has given his blessing to an all-gay production of his revue Marry Me A Little, being produced at a tiny theatre in Los Angeles.

Mr Sondheim, who is himself gay, according to a recent biography, but has always avoided exploring explicitly gay themes in his work, gave written permission to the producers to change the premise of the revue so that the characters singing about their lonesome yearnings for love in adjacent New York apartments are no longer a man and a woman, but two men.

The show, which originally ran on Broadway in the 1980s and features songs written for other shows, but never used in them, is being staged at the 65-seat Celebration Theater in Hollywood, a venue known for its handling of gay and lesbian themes. The production was so modest, however, that it got few reviews. It runs until 5 December.

In the programme notes, the producers have inserted the line: "Permission to change gender for the production of Marry Me A Little has been made with the author's prior and express written consent." Although it is not unusual to modify plays and musicals to suit a particular production, it is rare for the author to be called on to approve the changes. Representatives for Mr Sondheim said he did not want to discuss his decision.

Randy Brenner, the director, said the show had attracted mixed audiences. "There are universal themes of loneliness and finding a partner that touche everyone," he said. Performer Steve Gideon added: "The concept of romantic love is so much a part of gay culture, I thought `why not put two men in it?' "