Gershwins' Porgy and Bess will open on B'way




Producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel in association with the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) have announced that the estates of George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, and DuBose and Dorothy Herward have endorsed The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, officially greenlighting the sold-out A.R.T. production to come to Broadway.

“…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.”
–Michael Strunsky, The Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Trusts

“Our family has enjoyed seeing this masterwork in opera houses all over the world and stagings of the opera are booked for years to come. Last week, at the American Repertory Theatre, we realized that PORGY also thrives exceedingly well in a musical theatre setting…As we sat in the theatre following the ovation, our family shared with each other how unprecedentedly entertaining we found the performance.”
–Marc George Gershwin, George Gershwin Family Trust

“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.”
–Albert J. Cardinali, The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund

“…it is particularly important to me that new generations experience and enjoy the rich, historical and timeless music that my Great-Uncles left all of us. Diane, Suzan-Lori and Diedre have created a powerful and memorable production that will bring PORGY AND BESS’s reach to a wider audience and a younger generation.”
–Jonathan Keidan, George Gershwin Family Trust

The endorsements may be presumed to be in response to the controversy that has flowed around the production following Stephen Sondheim's letter sent to the New York Times on the 9 Aug 2011, in which the composer attacked the production. Sondheim wrote it was misleading to call it "The Gershwins’" Porgy and Bess claiming "there is a difference between reinterpretation and wholesale rewriting"

The announcement may also be in response to New York Post journalist Michael Riedel who last week wrote in his column that the musical will close after it's run in Cambridge, MA, and not come to Broadway.

The producers first announced on the 29 Jun 2011 that The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess would open at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre on 12 Jan 2012, following previews from 17 Dec 2011.

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess - music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, book by DuBose Heyward - has been re-imagined by A.R.T.'s Artistic Director Diane Paulus, Pulitzer prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Parks, and two-time Obie winner Diedre Murray.

The show has been specifically created for Broadway and features a revised book in a musical theatre format and jazz-oriented musical arrangements.

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is set in the 1930s in Catfish Row, a neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina. Bess, beautiful and troubled, 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 Sporting Life.

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

The newly re-imagined production premiered at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), where it is playing from from 17 Aug 2011 through to 2 Oct 2011.

The American Repertory Theatre's production stars Audra McDonald (Bess), Norm Lewis (Porgy), David Alan Grier (Sportin' Life), Joshua Henry (Jake), Phillip Boykin (Crown), Natasha Yvette Williams (Maria), Nikki Renee Daniels (Clara), Bryonha Marie Parham (Serena), Cedric Neal (Frazier), J.D. Webste (Mingo, the Undertaker), Nathaniel Stampley (Robbins), Phumzile Sojala (Peter) and Heather Hill (Lily).

Audra McDonald (Bess), Norm Lewis (Porgy) and David Alan Grier (Sportin' Life) will reprise their roles for Broadway. Further casting is still to be announced.

The creative team features choreographer Ronald K. Brown, set designer Riccardo Hernandez, costume designer Emilio Sosa, lighting designer Christopher Akerlind and sound designer Acme Sound Partners.

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is based on DuBose Heyward's novel “Porgy” and the play of the same name, which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward. All three works deal with African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the real-life Rainbow Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.

George Gershwin worked on Porgy and Bess in Charleston, SC and drew inspiration from the James Island Gullah community, which he felt had preserved some African musical traditions. The music itself reflects his New York jazz roots, but also draws on southern black traditions. Gershwin modeled the pieces after each type of folk song which the composer knew about; jubilees, blues, praying songs, street cries, work songs, and spirituals are blended with traditional arias and recitatives.

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess first premiered at the Colonial Theatre in Boston on 30 Sep 1935. Broadway performances followed featuring a cast of classically trained African-American singers — a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time.

The show was last revived on the Great White Way in 1983.

Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in
Diane Paulus' re-imagination of Porgy and Bess