They Love You, Porgy: Ticket Period for Broadway's Porgy and Bess Extended to Fall

News   They Love You, Porgy: Ticket Period for Broadway's Porgy and Bess Extended to Fall
 
A healthy winter box office is prompting the producers of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess to extend the sales period of the Broadway revival beyond its planned limited run. Originally announced to play to June 24 and then to July 8, the musical will continue at least to Sept. 30.

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

The news first surfaced in the New York Times, which on Feb. 9 cited a producer email that alerted group sales agents about the coming extension. The producers have confirmed the extension to Playbill.com. Get tickets at ticketmaster.com.

The revised version of the opera by George & Ira Gershwin and DuBose & Dorothy Heyward raised the hackles of theatre purists during the revival's development period in summer and fall 2011, putting a shadow on the box-office prospects. Audiences, however, have been hungry to bite into this fresh "musical theatre" take on the material. Director Diane Paulus, dramatist Suzan-Lori Parks and musical supervisor Diedre Murray are behind the adaptation.

In the week ending Feb. 5, Porgy and Bess grossed $905,134, representing an average paid admission of $89.44 and 94.9 percent of capacity at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald opened in the title roles Jan. 12 following previews from Dec. 17. (Read Playbill's The Leading Men column about Norm Lewis.) 

The Gershwin and Heyward estates enlisted Tony-nominated Hair director Paulus to help bring new shape and voice to the classic. This includes some reassignment of material to different characters, cutting some material and turning previously sung recitative into spoken dialogue, among other changes. *

To reinvigorate the characters and bolster the dramatic impact of the story, Paulus brought on board Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Book of Grace), who is credited with adaptation and additional scenes, and Pulitzer Prize nominee Diedre Murray (Running Man), credited with musical adaptation.

This production first premiered at the American Repertory Theater last summer and streamlines the four-hour folk opera into a two-and-a-half-hour staging. The authors' estates greenlit the staging for Broadway, which arrives with the A.R.T. company in tow. It is produced by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel and Rebecca Gold.

 

Diane Paulus
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"We went back and looked at all the original sources, the 1925 novel that Dubose Heyward wrote called 'Porgy,' the play that he wrote with his wife in 1927, [and] we looked at the movie that Sydney Poitier made… even that fed our approach on this," Paulus told Playbill.com. She said the creative team's goal was to "take a classic from the past and bring it forward not in a way that updates it or changes it, but makes the original pulse like it was written yesterday."

"It's a beautiful, beautiful opera," Parks added. "Often in my own work, I reach back into the past to bring things forward. My work is almost a bridge for stories; it seemed very natural [to work on Porgy and Bess]. I felt like I'd been called."

Lewis (Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, Les Miserables) stars as the "crippled" beggar 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, American Idiot) as Jake.

The 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.

Joshua Henry and Nikki Renée Daniels
photo by Michael J. Lutch

The ensemble includes Allison Blackwell, Roosevelt Andre Credit, Trevon Davis, Joseph Dellger, Wilkie Ferguson, Alicia Hall Moran, Andrea Jones-Sojola, Lisa Nicole Wilkerson, Christopher Innvar, Carmen Ruby Floyd, David Hughey and Julius Thomas III.

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 design sound. Orchestrations are by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, with music supervision by David Loud.

According to the producers, Porgy and Bess "is set in Charleston’s fabled Catfish Row, where the beautiful Bess struggles to break free from her scandalous past, and the only one who can rescue her is the crippled but courageous Porgy. Threatened by her formidable former lover Crown, and the seductive enticements of the colorful troublemaker Sporting Life, Porgy and Bess’ relationship evolves into a deep romance that triumphs as one of theater’s most exhilarating love stories."

The work includes such songs as "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," "I Loves You, Porgy," "My Man's Gone Now," "There's a Boat That's Leavin' Soon for New York," "Summertime," "I Got Plenty o' Nothin'" and "It Ain't Necessarily So."

For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com. The Richard Rodgers Theatre is located at 226 West 46th Street.

 

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