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Considering today's glut of high-concept, revisionist opera productions, I find it ironic that the new Broadway production of "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" directed by Diane Paulus has caused such a stir. Surely much more violence is done to composers' and librettists' intentions on any given night in opera houses around the world than anything that takes place on the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre. A Broadway musical is not an opera; it has different conventions. A viable Broadway version of Porgy in no way detracts from its validity as an opera. For me the question is whether the present adaptation, by Suzanne-Lori Parks and Diedre L. Murray, works as a Broadway musical and my answer is an emphatic "yes." It is musically glorious and emotionally gripping. Rarely will you find such a talented group of singing actors on one stage. There is not a weak link in the cast. I expected Audra McDonald to shine as Bess and she does not disappoint; her singing and acting are marvelous. The revelation for me was Norm Lewis, whose Porgy is absolutely riveting. David Alan Grier makes a properly lubricious Sportin' Life and Phillip Boykin perfectly captures Crown's malevolence. Much as I enjoyed the evening, I will grant that all is not perfection. Some of the orchestration seemed too jazzy. Occasionally the blocking seemed awkward. Finally, the set by Riccardo Hernandez is oppressively ugly and looks more like a decrepit airplane hangar than a tenement in Charleston. I know Catfish Row shouldn't look like Park Avenue, but this hideous set cheapens the entire production. Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable evening.
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes including intermission.