Theater Review: "The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess" On Broadway
"Porgy and Bess" is about a formerly wanton woman, Bess (Audra McDonald), whose lover, Crown (Phillip Boykin), kills an innocent man. Terrified, he flees the scene of the crime, leaving the ostracized Bess with no one to turn to but Porgy (Norm Lewis), a crippled man who is inherently good. At opportune moments, Sportin' Life (David Alan Grier), the local drug dealer, tries to lure Bess back to a life of irresponsibility.
The cast, along with the crew, including director Diane Paulus, fights tooth and nail to make "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," a 1930s opera, more accessible to a modern-day audience, and while they succeed at times, some parts of the show remain murky and/or alienating. Certainly, the Gershwins' score is lovely, perhaps one of the greatest of all times, but (and Stephen Sondheim shall scorn me for this), the book does not necessarily tell a relatable, or even a sympathetic story. Suzan-Lori Parks has adapted DuBose Heyward's book for a 21st century musical theater audience, incorporating dialogue instead of sung recitatives, as in an opera, but there is something just out of the grasp of attainability about the show.
"Porgy and Bess" was written as an opera, and while it has been adapted into more of a traditional musical theater piece, it still retains its operatic roots—which perhaps, begs the question, should it even have been transformed into a musical at all? Parks' dialogue does make the show more accessible than it is when the show is entirely sung, but it would seem that the show still lacks the more universal appeal it possibly could have.
Nevertheless, despite the show's flaws, it is an incredible experience to witness such talented singers bring the Gershwins' score to life, and one that is not to be missed, if at all possible.
For 2012 Tony Awards coverage, click here.