Musical Theatre Adaptation of Porgy and Bess to Play A.R.T. Under Direction of Diane Paulus

News   Musical Theatre Adaptation of Porgy and Bess to Play A.R.T. Under Direction of Diane Paulus Tony Award-nominated Hair director Diane Paulus will unite with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Pulitzer Prize nominee Diedre Murray to adapt the Gershwin's iconic opera Porgy and Bess as a musical for contemporary theatre audiences.

Diane Paulus
Diane Paulus

The re-imagined production will bow at the American Repertory Theater, where Paulus serves as artistic director, in early September 2011. Hair producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel will present the new incarnation of Porgy and Bess along with A.R.T.

"The Gershwin and Heyward estates have given us the charge to create a version of Porgy and Bess that will have a unique identity as a musical," Paulus said in a statement. "I am delighted to be working with Suzan-Lori Parks on making the characters in the story more fully realized. With one of the most incredible scores ever written, we want to bring Porgy and Bess to life on the musical stage in a way that feels essential, immediate, and passionate."

Parks added, "Our approach is fresh and respectful; we're working to retain all the best-loved elements of the original while crafting a piece that speaks to contemporary audiences." Murray stated that the new production would move the work "forward on its continuum, re-envisioning it for a modern perspective."

The creative team will include choreographer Ronald K. Brown, set designer Riccardo Hernandez, costume designer Emilio Sosa, Tony Award-winning lighting designer Christopher Akerlind. Acme Sound Partners will design sound.

Paulus, Parks and Murray aren't the first to attempt to further blur the lines between Porgy and Bess' identity as an opera and musical. In 2006 Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Trevor Nunn premiered his own adaptation of Porgy and Bess in London, which sought to align the opera closer to the constructs of musical theatre. Clocking in at only two-and-a-half hours, the production excised much of the opera's recitative in favor of dialogue and more traditional book scenes. A Broadway transfer was announced, but never materialized. The London run was short-lived. The A.R.T. production brings the opera back to its roots. Porgy and Bess premiered at the Colonial Theatre in Boston Sept. 30, 1935. The New York premiere followed Oct. 10, 1935, at the Alvin Theatre.

Set in the fictional Catfish Row, SC, the work tells of the crippled beggar Porgy and his love for Bess. With music by  George Gershwin, lyrics by his brother Ira and a book by DuBose Heyward, the work includes such songs as "Summertime,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nothin’” and “It Aint Necessarily So."

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

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