Porgy And Bess Has Arrived Amidst Controversy

Categories: Theater

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This is not a review.

I'll let far more erudite scholars than myself go into lengthy analyses about exactly what's been trimmed out of the new revisal being called DuBose Heyward's Porgy and Bess.

(They're actually calling it The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, but I thought I'd give the co-author a little plug for the hell of it.)

I'll also let them decide whether this version was really done because George Gershwin spoke to director Diane Paulus from beyond or because they just wanted a streamlined, accessible version to make money off of.

But I will say that the production scores best with three duets:

The tremulously touching "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," sung by the title characters (Broadway dependable Norm Lewis with a limp and a cane, and four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald in an earthy red dress and a facial scar, striving for respectability).

"What You Want With Bess?" with Bess unsuccessfully trying to fend off Crown (the imposing Phillip Boykin), who has burst onto the scene to stake his claim on her. The number -- with hot-blooded intentions pouring out of every syllable -- is riveting.

And "Bess, You Is My Woman," sung by our title duo as a reaffirmation of their love among the ruins.

In all three duets, singing and acting fluidly combine to take you to the heart of the happy-dust-toking, volatile, longing, and feeling Catfish Row crew.

As for the rest ... critics, take it away.

(Update: The Times review is a love letter to Audra, but says this version of the show "sometimes feels skeletal.")

(Hmm. Maybe DuBose wouldn't have wanted his name above the title!)


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10 comments
VonD
VonD

That man in the photo with Audra is smoking HOT!

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

How about "The Gershwin Estate's 'Porgy and Bess'"?

Gregorama
Gregorama

Go ahead and throw stones in my direction, but I'm completely puzzled by the Broadway love affair with Audra McDonald.  I just do not get her appeal.  Pretty voice, sorta pretty face, good actress....but that's about it, as far as I can determine.  The hosannahs that are proclaimed every time she opens her mouth on stage are just mystifying to me.  In fact, to me she somehow makes every song she sings sound exactly like the last one she sang, and her "star power" is completely lost on me.  Am I the only one? 

MSpeer
MSpeer

Nope, you are not. I agree.

MSpeer
MSpeer

Attended a preview last week. And while I enjoyed the show I can't help feeling that, as you mention, they just wanted a streamlined, accessible version that would be a money maker.

Sad in a way. Performances are strong and they have a wonderful ensemble cast. But for additional insight check out Stephen Sondheim's editorial that ran in the New York Times last year about this production. I cannot imagine anyone who is more qualified to speak about revivals of known works.

mjm
mjm

it's been trimmed because the rights were given over to Ira Gershwin's widow Leonore and his children who he did not have the best relationship with (many BWay stars *cough* Liza *cough* have some not nice things to say about her as well).

Lost Weekend
Lost Weekend

What it really needed was MFSB's 1976 disco version of "Summertime".  Now that's cookin' with gas!

Shampers
Shampers

Whether it's a review or not, I liked your observations. And you're kind to single out what works.

Musto
Musto

Actually DuBose and Dorothy Heyward wrote the novel the whole thing was based on, so it could easily be called The Heywards' Porgy and Bess.

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