Gershwin and Heyward Estates Greenlight The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess for Broadway

News   Gershwin and Heyward Estates Greenlight The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess for Broadway
Producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel in association with the American Repertory Theater announced Sept. 14 that the estates of George and Ira Gershwin, and Dubose and Dorothy Heyward have given their blessing to the Broadway-bound revival of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, which will be leavin' soon for New York after its current run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA.

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

The classic American folk opera, which was originally written as a four-hour work, will return to New York in December as a streamlined two-and-a-half-hour production, geared toward Broadway audiences more accustomed to musical theatre.

"I believe that the changes incorporated in this new version preserve DuBose's and Dorothy's intentions, while enhancing the portrayal of the story's characters and instilling a pace that maintains excitement from beginning to end," said Albert J. Cardinali of The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund in a statement.

Tony Award-nominated Hair director Diane Paulus has collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Book of Grace) and Pulitzer Prize nominee Diedre Murray (Running Man) to restructure the piece as a musical with dialogue.

Prior to the start of previews, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim called into question the intention and tone of Paulus and her team and the billing of the work as The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. New York critics were mixed on the A.R.T. premiere, but unanimously praised Tony Award winner Audra McDonald for her performance as Bess. Boston publications found much to praise in the production.

Michael Strunsky of The Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Trusts, added the following statement: "…I would like to congratulate the team behind the American Repertory Theater's production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (which, incidentally, has been the trademarked title for all productions performed over the past fifteen years)…They have taken the heart of the piece and adapted it to the conventions of contemporary musical theatre and the result is an exhilarating and stunning theatrical experience." Porgy and Bess began previews Aug. 17 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, where it will continue through Oct. 2, prior to arriving on Broadway Dec. 17 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. It will officially open Jan. 12, 2012.

Norm Lewis (Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, Les Miserables) stars as 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) as Jake.

At this time, only Lewis, McDonald and Grier are announced to appear in the Broadway transfer.

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

Porgy and Bess 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. 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."

According to A.R.T., "This classic American tale tells the story of the beautiful and troubled Bess, who turns to Porgy, the crippled beggar, in search of safety after her possessive lover Crown commits murder. As Porgy and Bess’s love grows, their future is threatened by Crown and the conniving Sportin' Life."

For tickets to the Broadway production, visit

Cedric Neal, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, Roosevelt Andre Credit and NaTasha Yvette Williams
Cedric Neal, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, Roosevelt Andre Credit and NaTasha Yvette Williams Photo by Michael Lutch
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