I Got Plenty O' Admiration for Porgy and Bess
Saturday night I had the opportunity to see something really special with my family and we had an incredibly memorable night all together. We went to see the revival of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory (Culver Pictures; Chad Batka for New York Times) Theater in Cambridge, starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis.
This production is directed by Diane Paulus and will be going to Broadway in October, and has been particularly controversial. The production became almost notorious before it even opened, due to its rewritten ending, added dialogue and removal of some recitative, and, most notably, the fact that Porgy uses a cane for his cripple, instead of the famous goat-drawn cart.
One of the biggest opponents of this revival is none other than Stephen Sondheim. I find it quite ironic that of all people, a composer known for turning musical theatre on its head is suddenly so adamant about Gershwin purity. To get some background on his response to the New York Times article you can find it here.
After keeping up with all of the press, controversy, and huge starring names, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the show on Saturday night with my family. I had not seen the original, so I went ready for anything, and as I sat in the theater it brought me pure theatrical entertainment and inspiration, and may have been the best production I’ve ever seen. When you hear people like Audra McDonald sing opera, it makes you wonder how a human can possibly make a sound like that come out of their mouths.
I sat awe struck, mouth agape for most of the show, my heart aching for the desperate, brave, and astray souls, able to lift me up at one moment with, “I’ve Got Plenty of Nuthin,’” and break my heart in the next with “I Loves You, Porgy.” I love theatre so much and having a family who appreciates it as much as I means a lot to me.
Sharing such a beautiful and poignant piece of art with my family made this production all the more special, and it’s a memory I’ll always cherish. Noone can predict what the future will hold for this show on Broadway and others’ reactions to the differences in this revival versus the original, but I truly can’t imagine a better cast or a more moving production, and I do hope that audiences may overlook the reduced recitative, and enjoy it as an inspiring and beautiful opera that has been brought to life again.