Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Porgy and Bess ****

(Click on the title to read the entire review.)
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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We agree with you entirely, though we saw the show in Boston. The Wall St. Journal today was so appallingly disparaging about the production and we couldn't have disagreed more. The NYTimes gave it more credence, but we liked Norm Lewis so much more than they did. I had to get on your page to see what you thought. We live in CA and only get to your fair city once or twice a year, but love reading your thoughts. We sat next to you at ballet last fall. Keep up your good work! Thanks, T. Winton

Bob said...

Yes, I remember. Nice to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed it too.