"Leavin' Soon for New York": The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess Ends A.R.T. Run Oct. 2; Broadway Is Next

News   "Leavin' Soon for New York": The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess Ends A.R.T. Run Oct. 2; Broadway Is Next The Broadway-bound American Repertory Theater production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis, concludes its engagement Oct. 2 in Cambridge, MA.

Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis
Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis Photo by Michael Lutch

Porgy and Bess is getting new context thanks to Tony Award-nominated Hair director Diane Paulus, who has collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Book of Grace) and Pulitzer Prize nominee Diedre Murray (Running Man) to bring the American folk opera to contemporary Broadway audiences.

The traditionally sung-through, four-hour opera, is now a two-and-a-half-hour musical with dialogue. Tony-winning producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel co-present the engagement with A.R.T.

Porgy and Bess began previews Aug. 17 at A.R.T., where it officially opened Aug. 31. The production will arrive on Broadway Dec. 17 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre towards a Jan. 12, 2012, opening night.

Porgy and Bess 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.

New York critics were cool on the staging, but Boston newspapers embraced the revised take on the American folk opera, which first debuted in Boston 76 years ago. The Gershwin and Heyward estates also gave their blessing to the reconceived production. "I believe that the changes incorporated in this new version preserve DuBose's and Dorothy's intentions, while enhancing the portrayal of the story's characters and instilling a pace that maintains excitement from beginning to end," said Albert J. Cardinali of The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund in a statement.

Lewis (Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, Les Miserables) stars as Porgy opposite four-time Tony Award winner McDonald (Ragtime, Marie Christine, Master Class) as Bess. They are joined by two-time Tony nominee David Alan Grier (The First, Race, Dreamgirls) as Sportin' Life and Tony nominee Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys) as Jake.

At this time, only Lewis, McDonald and Grier are announced to appear in the Broadway transfer.

The A.R.T. cast also features Nikki Renee Daniels as Clara, Phillip Boykin as Crown, Bryonha Marie Parham as Serena, NaTasha Yvette Williams as Maria, Cedric Neal as Frazier, J.D. Webster as Mingo, Heather Hill as Lily, Phumzile Sojola as Peter and Nathaniel Stampley as Robbins.

The ensemble features Allison Blackwell, Roosevelt Andre Credit, Trevon Davis, Joseph Dellger, Wilkie Ferguson, Alicia Hall Moran, Andrea Jones-Sojola, and Lisa Nicole Wilkerson. The Coroner is played by Joseph Dellger.

The creative team includes choreographer Ronald K. Brown, set designer Riccardo Hernandez, costume designer Emilio Sosa and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Christopher Akerlind. Acme Sound Partners will design sound. Orchestrations are by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, with music supervision by David Loud. Sheilah Walker will conduct.

Visit AmericanRepertoryTheater. A.R.T. is located at 64 Brattle Street in Cambridge, MA.

Visit Ticketmaster.com for tickets to the Broadway engagement.

David Alan Grier and company
David Alan Grier and company Photo by Michael Lutch
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