A new adaptation of George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess, specifically created for Broadway, opens in San Francisco on November 10, ahead of a national tour. Entitled The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, this highly-acclaimed production was the winner of the the 2012 Tony Award® for Best Musical Revival.
With a revised book in musical theatre format, and jazz-oriented musical arrangements performed by a 23-piece orchestra, the show features one of Broadway’s most accomplished creative teams, led by Tony Award®-winning director Diane Paulus, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, and two-time Obie Award-winning composer Diedre L Murray.
When it opened on Broadway at the Richard Rogers Theatre in January 2012, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess was rapturously received by the critics. Time Magazine referred to it as the “#1 musical of the year”, and Associated Press as “A gorgeous version of the Gershwin masterpiece”. The critic from The New Yorker wrote of “A great achievement that left me breathless”, The New York Times described it as “A big hit! An indispensable tickets!” and Newsday as “A luscious piece of musical theatre!”.
Starring Alicia Hall Moran as Bess and Nathaniel Stampley as Porgy, the touring production has a cast which includes Alvin Crawford as Crown, Kingsley Legg as Sportin’ Life, Sumayya Ali as Clara, Denisha Ballew as Serena, Danielle Lee Greaves as Mariah and David Hughey as Jake.
Porgy and Bess was the only opera which Gershwin wrote – he referred to it as an “American folk opera”. Based on Dubose Heyward’s novel, Porgy, and his play of the same name – which he co-wrote with his wife, Dorothy – the story is set in Charleston’s fabled Catfish Row, telling of the attempts of Porgy, a disabled beggar, to rescue the beautiful Bess from her violent and possessive lover, Crown, and Sportin’ Life, the drug dealer. Their relationship, which develops into a deep romance, is regarded as one of most uplifting love stories in musical theatre.
The original production of the opera Porgy and Bess was performed at the Colonial Theatre in Boston on September 30, 1935, with libretto by DuBose Heyward, who co-wrote the lyrics with Ira Gershwin. The show then moved to Broadway, featuring a cast of classically trained African-American singers, which was considered a daring and visionary artistic decision at the time.
“Every so often,” says director Diane Paulus, “a project comes along that is so astonishing that one has to drop everything and just say I’m going to do it. That’s what I felt when I was asked to do The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. The epic sweep of the story, the immense history of the musical itself and the unforgettable Gershwin score, highlighted by Summertime, I Got Plenty of Nothing and It Ain’t Necessarily So make this unquestionably one of the greatest American masterpieces.”