Audra McDonald Reveals Casting in Porgy and Bess at A.R.T.

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22 Mar 2011

Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald
Michael Wilson

Tony Award winner Audra McDonald recently confirmed that she will star as Bess in a new production of the George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward opera Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater this September.

"I'm looking forward to it. I feel like I'm old enough," McDonald told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun at the Broadway opening of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Representatives for A.R.T. would not confirm the news, but previously told Playbill.com that the four-time Tony winner was in talks to star as Bess in the fall production. Complete dates of production have not been announced.

Tony Award nominee Diane Paulus (Hair) will direct the production that is being re-imagined by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Book of Grace) and Pulitzer Prize nominee Diedre Murray (Running Man) as a musical for contemporary audiences.

Hair producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel will present the new incarnation of Porgy and Bess along with A.R.T.



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.

A four-time Tony Award winner for her work in Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime and A Raisin in the Sun, Audra McDonald's work on stage also includes Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Patti LuPone, and her Tony-nominated performances in 110 in the Shade and Marie Christine. On screen she has appeared in the television adaptations of "A Raisin in the Sun," "Wit" and "Annie." She will depart the television series "Private Practice" this spring.

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Set in the fictional Catfish Row, SC, Porgy and Bess 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 "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."

"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 previous 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."