Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor has canceled its August staged reading of “The Prince of Egypt” in the midst of criticism over a lack of diversity in the cast.
The free show and concert was to be the first public performance of the entire script and musical score of the new staged adaptation, a high-profile project based on DreamWorks’ blockbuster animated film that tells the iconic Biblical story of Moses.
On Friday, the nonprofit theater’s announcement of the high-profile concert reading and its cast led to a stir on social media that the performance was lacking actors of color.
Cynthia Erivo, who won a Tony for her role in “The Color Purple” posted several comments on Twitter, including: “The piece is set in ancient EGYPT, i.e. AFRICA where people darker than I resided. That is my point.”
By Monday, Bay Street’s artistic director, Scott Schwartz, had posted a letter on the theater’s website acknowledging the concerns.
“Some have written that the cast for this upcoming concert is ‘all white,’ but that is simply not the case. In fact, we have an Equity cast of fifteen actors and five of them are people of color,” he wrote. Schwartz emphasized that the production was still “early in its development, and the focus of the team has been on the script and score” but “your concern about the need for diversity and authenticity in this project is something we hear and take seriously.”
On Wednesday, the one-night performance was called off altogether. Reached by phone, Schwartz declined to comment beyond his earlier statements.
Music and lyrics for the movie and musical are by Scott Schwartz’s father, Stephen, whose Broadway hits include “Wicked” and “Pippin.” Philip LaZebnik wrote the screenplay and the book for the musical.