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The Gershwins Porgy and Bess

At the Richard Rogers Theatre located 226 West 46th Street.  The musical opened on January 12, 2012 and plays until September 2012.  It runs for two hours thirty minutes with one intermission.

Porgy and Bess is an opera first performed in 1935 with music by George Gershwin, librette by DuBose Heyward and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward.  It was based on DuBose Heyward novel "Porgy" and the play of the same name he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward.  The original show ran for four hours. It first premiered at the Colonial Theatre in Boston on September 30, 1935.  The show opened in New York at the Alvin Theatre on October 10, 1935 and lasted 124 performances.  The show featured an entire cast of African American classically trained singers.  A revival was brought to Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on January 1942.

The newly re-imaged production premiered at the American Repertory Theatre (A. R. T.) from August 17, 2011 thru October 2, 2011 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It features a revised book in musical theatre format and jazz oriented musical arrangements.

The musical score includes "Summertime", "Bess, You Is My Woman Now", It Ain't Necessarily So" and "I Loves You Porgy".

Audra McDonald won three Tony Awards for "Carousel", "Master Class" and "Ragtime" by the time she was twenty eight.  She was nominated for another Tony award for her performance in "Marie Christine".  Her fourth Tony Award was in 2004 for "A Raisin in the Sun".  Audra reprised her her "Raisin" role in 2008 adaptation earning her a second Emmy nomination. The other was for HBO "Wit" in 2001.

David Allen Grier was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Feature Actor in a musical and won The Theatre World Award  for "The First".  In 2009 he returned to Broadway in "Race" and received his second Tony nomination for this role.

Norm Lewis made his Broadway debut in "Miss Saigon" "John" (replacement).  In 2011 he was seen in "Sondheim in Sondheim".

The story is set in the late 1930's in Catfish Row and Kittawah Island Charleston, North Carolina.

Bess (Audra McDonald) is a drug addict and alcoholic.  Her boyfriend Crown (Phillip Boykin) is a thug and a bully.  When he kills one of the locals he goes  into hiding.

Bess turns to Porgy (Norm Lewis) a crippled beggar for safety and a place to live.  She fall in love with him.  Bess cleans up her life but her pass catches up with her.

Sporting Life (David Allen Grier) doesn't  help .  He's on the lam from the law in New York City and came home to lay low  until it's safe to go back. He's a bad influence on Bess offering her booze and drugs. 

I did not know anything about the story except for the songs I mentioned before.  Stephen Sondheim sent a negative letter to the papers and other theatre critics questioned if the production would even make it to Broadway,

I for one am glad it did. Its a heart breaking story. The cast is breathtaking. I was surprised that David Alan Grier could sing so good and add dancing to that list.  Audra has a beautiful voice.  Hats off to Norm Lewis portrayal of a cripple,  it kept me wondering how he did it. His duets with Audra took my breath away.  I had tears in my eyes. 

I'm not an opera lover but this  version I am.  You won't be disappointed  if you see this production  of  "The Gershwins Porgy and Bess",  I wasn't.  Oh yes there is an Orchestra in a pit with an overture and conductor.  What a treat.

Review by Rozanna Radakovich.

Photos by Annazor

 

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