Gershwins' Porgy and Bess to play a limited engagement

The upcoming Broadway production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, re-imagined by director Diane Paulus, will now play a 26-week limited run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre from 17 Dec 2011 - 24 Jun 2012, with opening night set for 12 Jan 2012.

The musical was originally expected to play an open-ended run, and had until recently been selling tickets up to 8 Jul 2012.

There had been rumors that The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess would not come to Broadway 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."

Last week producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, in association with the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), released a series of endorsements of the musical from the estates of George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, and DuBose and Dorothy Herward, and confirmed that the show would arrive on Broadway.

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

Originally published on

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