In a recent interview with the Times, Tony-nominated director Diane Paulus and Tony-winning producer Jeffrey Richards discussed the process of bringing a revised version of Porgy and Bess to contemporary Broadway audiences following a regional premiere at the American Repertory Theater last August.
Paulus is at the helm of the new production of the American opera, which has music by George Gershwin, lyrics by his brother Ira and a book and additional lyrics by DuBose Heyward. It is based on the play Porgy, by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward.
The four-hour classic has been streamlined into a two-and-a-half-hour musical with adaptation and additional scenes by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Book of Grace) and musical adaptation by Pulitzer Prize nominee Diedre Murray (Running Man).
During summer rehearsals Paulus and her team explored changes to the ending, which offered a more hopeful future for the titular characters, but it was dropped before the production began public previews at A.R.T. Paulus was mum on what Broadway audiences would see in the musical's final moments when The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess begins Broadway previews Dec. 17 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Paulus told the Times, "Our goal for the piece was for the audience to be completely connected to both the characters of Porgy and Bess through to the last second of the piece, and I think we learned how to do that. I’m so reluctant to talk about the details of the ending because, frankly, I don’t want it to get misinterpreted. I don’t want someone to read it and go crazy." As previously reported, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim went public with a letter to Paulus and company regarding their intentions for Porgy and Bess Aug. 10. Both the Gershwin and Heyward estates gave the A.R.T. production their blessing.
What was revealed is that scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez is re-exploring his designs for Broadway and that the orchestra has been expanded from 18 pieces to 22. Some keys have been changed as well.
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess will officially open Jan. 12, 2012, for a limited run through June 24, 2012.
The cast will be led by McDonald (Ragtime, Marie Christine, Master Class) as Bess and Norm Lewis (Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, Les Miserables) as Porgy. Also cast is Tony Award nominee David Alan Grier (The First, Race, Dreamgirls) as Sportin' Life. All three actors originated the roles at the American Repertory Theater premiere last summer.
Also confirmed is actress Bryonha Parham, who will portray Serena. Much of the original A.R.T. cast are expected to return for the Broadway engagement, though producers have not officially announced complete casting at this time.
For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com. The Richard Rodgers Theatre is located at 226 West 46th Street.