Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is coming to B'way

Producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel in association with the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) have announced that following its run at A.R.T. in Cambridge, MA, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess will open on Broadway at the 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 will feature 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 premieres at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), 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).

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 Broadway production will see four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald (Carousel , Master Class, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun), Norm Lewis (Porgy) and two-time Tony-nominee David Alan Grier (The First, Race) reprise their roles for Broadway, which will also feature the same creative team.

Further casting for the Broadway production is to be announced.

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 musical was last revived on the Great White Way in 1983.

George and Ira Gershwin

Originally published on

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