Small-Cast Porgy and Bess, the Gershwin Classic, Opens May 21 in Chicago

News   Small-Cast Porgy and Bess, the Gershwin Classic, Opens May 21 in Chicago
The new Court Theatre production of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's folk opera Porgy and Bess opens May 21 following previews from May 12 in Chicago. The title lovers in the all-Chicago cast are Alexis Rogers (The Piano Lesson) as Bess and Todd M. Kryger (Disney's The Lion King, Ragtime, Show Boat) as Porgy.

Todd M. Kryger and Alexis J. Rogers
Todd M. Kryger and Alexis J. Rogers Photo by Michael Brosilow

The 15-person cast of the 1935 musical — directed by Court artistic director Charles Newell — also includes Bethany Thomas (Serena), Bear Bellinger (Peter), Sean Blake (Sportin' Life), James Earl Jones II (Crown), Brian-Alwyn Newland (Robbins), Harriet Nzinga Plumpp (Clara), Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Jim), Wydetta Carter (Maria), Travis Turner (Mingo), Adrienne Walker (Annie), Byron Glenn Willis (Jake), Matt Holzfeind (Ensemble) and Joelle Lamarre (Ensemble).

On May 11, owing to popular demand, Court announced a 16-performance extension of Porgy and Bess. The closing will now be July 3.

Porgy and Bess' artistic consultant is Ron OJ Parson; the musical director is Doug Peck.

The classic about lovers in the American South — with music by George Gershwin, book by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and lyrics by Ira Gershwin — was originally announced to play to June 19 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue.

According to Court notes, "Porgy and Bess remains George Gershwin's magnum opus, with an unforgettable score. Coming off their 2008 Jeff Award-winning production of Caroline, or Change, Charles Newell and Doug Peck come face-to-face with one of the greatest — and most controversial — pieces of American musical theatre ever created. Often denounced as a racially insensitive portrayal of black Southerners, Newell and Peck, in collaboration with resident artist Ron OJ Parson, will present a thoughtful, never-before-seen retelling of Gershwins' and Heywards' 'folk opera' Porgy and Bess, a classic but contested piece of American theatre history." Court artistic director Newell said in a statement, "Our casting standards for Porgy and Bess were incredibly high. Gershwin's music is difficult for even the most seasoned opera singer, so every cast member had to prove to music director Doug Peck their ability to handle the musical demands of the score. On top of that, each had to demonstrate an ability to access a depth of emotional storytelling that few actors in musical theatre, much less opera, are ever called on to reach. The cast we secured, led by the fabulous Todd Kryger and Alexis Rogers, is truly one of the most exceptional ever assembled at Court Theatre."

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Court Theatre is the professional theatre in residence at the University of Chicago.

Harriet Nzinga Plumpp and company
Harriet Nzinga Plumpp and company Photo by Michael Brosilow
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