Celebrating an American Classic: The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Considered by many to be America's greatest opera,
"Porgy and Bess" is a celebration of life and music, devastating loss and passionate, undying love. In its latest incarnation,
this classic Gershwin opera has returned to Broadway retitled as "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" in tribute to the geniuses
who created this inspiring, unforgettable slice of Americana.
The action in "Porgy and Bess" takes place
along Catfish Row, an African-American neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina. It's a sultry evening in the early 1920s,
and as the curtain opens, you hear a young mother sing a haunting lullaby, "Summertime," to her baby. This sets the scene
in motion as the audience meets the primary characters. Bess is an attractive, somewhat flighty young girl. Porgy is a disabled
young man who makes his living off the streets and loves Bess passionately but unrequitedly. Sportin' Life is the town drug
dealer and ne'er-do-well. During a craps game, Bess' boyfriend, Crown, instigates a knife fight and commits murder, then flees
from the police. Bess has no one to protect her and is tenderly taken in by Porgy.
As time goes on, Porgy and Bess
are contentedly living together, but events conspire to separate them — events that include the reappearance of Crown, a ravaging
killer hurricane and, finally, a murder. Bess battles her own demons, as well as the uncertainties of her future, against
the undercurrent of the show — the strength of Porgy's undying love for her.
In this national tour of
"Porgy and Bess," Porgy is played by Nathaniel Stampley, who first gained national attention as Mufasa in "The Lion King."
His other Broadway and theater credits include "The Color Purple," "Show Boat," "Pacific Overtures" and the national tour
of "Ragtime." Bess is played by Alicia Hall Moran, who has made a name for herself in New York as a popular cabaret artist,
where she performs everything from jazz and spirituals to operatic arias by Puccini.
book and libretto were written by author and playwright DuBose Heyward, who based it on his original novel and play, "Porgy,"
which he wrote with his wife Dorothy. The music was written by composer George Gershwin, whose brother Ira also contributed
some of the lyrics.
This revival of "Porgy and Bess" is directed by Diane Paulus, who also directed
the revival of "Hair" in 2009, as well as the Cirque du Soleil production "Amaluna." For her work with "Porgy and Bess," Paulus
received the 2013 Tony Award for Best Director.
In order to draw inspiration from his surroundings, composer
George Gershwin left his native New York and stayed in Charleston, South Carolina, where he wrote much of the opera. In the
original 1935 production, however, much of the score was cut after its trial run in Boston. Audiences didn't hear the full
Gershwin score until the show's 1976 revival at the Houston Grand Opera.
The original 1935 New York production featured
two young African-American opera singers: Anne Brown, who was the first African-American vocalist to study at Juilliard, and
Todd Duncan, who played the role of Porgy more than 1,800 times.
As part of the Broadway in Detroit
series, "Porgy and Bess" is coming to the Detroit Opera House for a limited run, with evening and afternoon matinee performances
available. If you're interested in Porgy and Bess Detroit tickets, you'll want to check online to find out about performance
dates, times and ticket availability.