After a pre-Broadway run at the American Repertory Theatre, four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier will head to Broadway in Porgy and Bess. Diane Paulus’ production of the Gershwin classic, featuring a reworked book by Suzan-Lori Parks, will begin previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on December 17 and open on January 12, 2012.
Porgy and Bess’ run at A.R.T. (the Cambridge, MA, theater where Paulus is artistic director) will begin on August 17, open on August 31 and run through October 2. Tony nominee Joshua Henry is on board for the pre-Broadway run but was not mentioned in the Broadway news release, which said only, "Further casting will be announced soon."
As previously reported, the new production is described as a re-imagining of the classic musical opera by Paulus (the Tony-nominated director of Hair), Pulitzer Prize winner Parks and two-time Obie winner Diedre Murray as musical director. Featuring music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, the show includes such classics as "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," "I Got Plenty o' Nothin" and "It Ain't Necessarily So." Originally conceived as an American folk opera, it tells the story of Porgy (Lewis), who lives in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina, and his attempts to rescue Bess (McDonald) from the clutches of Crown, her pimp, and Sportin' Life (Grier), a drug dealer.
Porgy and Bess had its premiere in Boston in 1935 and has had six Broadway productions, plus a 1983 mounting at Radio City Music Hall directed by Jack O’Brien. The show has mostly been mounted at opera houses, but Paulus intends to reclaim it as a musical that will appeal to contemporary audiences. According to the news release, "The show has been specifically created for Broadway and will feature a revised book in a musical theater format and jazz-oriented musical arrangements."
The creative team for Porgy and Bess includes choreographer Ronald K. Brown, set designer Riccardo Hernandez, costume designer Emilio Sosa, lighting designer Christopher Akerlind and sound designer Acme Sound Partners.
Porgy and Bess will be produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel in association with the American Repertory Theatre.