The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, Starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis, Ends Broadway Run Sept. 23
By Adam Hetrick
The Tony Award-winning revival of Porgy and Bess, a streamlined two-and-a-half-hour adaptation of the classic American folk opera starring five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald and Tony nominee Norm Lewis, ends its Broadway run Sept. 23 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
The fresh, abbreviated take on the four-hour opera opened Jan. 12 and was originally scheduled to play a limited run through June 24. Strong reviews and a cast led by McDonald and Lewis prompted producers to extend the production twice. It ends its run after 321 performances, making it the longest-running Broadway production of Porgy and Bess. A national tour is expected in fall 2013.
The Gershwin and Heyward estates enlisted Tony-nominated Hair director Diane Paulus to help bring new context to Porgy and Bess for contemporary audiences. The classic opera 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.
PS Classics recorded a cast album of the new incarnation of the work.
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 in 2011. The authors' estates greenlit the staging for Broadway, which arrived with the A.R.T. company in tow.
Tony nominee Lewis (Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, Les Miserables) stars as the crippled beggar Porgy opposite five-time Tony Award winner McDonald (Ragtime, Marie Christine, Master Class) as Bess. They are joined by three-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.
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."
It was produced by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Rebecca Gold, Howard Kagan, Cheryl Wiesenfeld/Brunish Trinchero/Lucio Simons TBC, Joseph and Matthew Deitch, Mark S. Golub & David S. Golub, Terry Schnuck, Freitag Productions/Koenigsberg Filerman, The Leonore S. Gershwin 1987 Trust, Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Ken Mahoney, Judith Resnick, Tulchin/Bartner/ATG, Paper Boy Productions, Christopher Hart, Alden Badway, Broadway Across America, Irene Gandy and Will Trice.
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