Complete Casting Announced for A.R.T.'s Norm Lewis-Audra McDonald Porgy and Bess

News   Complete Casting Announced for A.R.T.'s Norm Lewis-Audra McDonald Porgy and Bess
Casting is now complete for the American Repertory Theater production of the George Gershwin-DuBose Heyward folk opera Porgy and Bess.

As previously reported, the cast will be led by Norm Lewis (Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, Les Miserables) as Porgy, Audra McDonald (Ragtime, Marie Christine, Master Class) as Bess, David Alan Grier (The First, Race, Dreamgirls) as Sportin' Life, Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys) as Jake, Philip Boykin as Crown and Trista Dollison as Clara.

They will be joined by 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, Rosharra J'Nae Francis, Alicia Hall Moran, Rocklin Thompson and Lisa Nicole Wilkerson.

A.R.T. artistic director and Tony Award-nominated Hair director Diane Paulus will helm the production that will begin previews Aug. 17 at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, MA, prior to an official opening Aug. 31. Performances will continue through Sept. 30.

McDonald previously confirmed her casting in the production to March 22.

Porgy and Bess 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.

Audra McDonald
photo by Michael Wilson

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."

A.R.T. subscriptions will go on sale in May. Select tickets for Porgy and Bess will go on sale on April 28. Visit AmericanRepertoryTheater. A.R.T. is located at 64 Brattle Street in Cambridge, MA.

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