Friday, January 13, 2012

Porgy & Bess Opens on Broadway

Diane Paulus' production of The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess opened on Broadway last night to mixed-to-negative reviews. On the plus side, the performances were relatively well received. Audra McDonald is said to be magic, Philip Boykin's Crown is properly commanding, David Alan Grier's Sporting Life takes a page right out of the Catskills, and Norm Lewis' Porgy -- well, he does the best he can with what he's given. And that's quite the problem. The production has made so many changes to the original Gershwin brothers opera that the show seems doomed from the start. Crown's pushing Bess into the palmetto thicket to rape her while Gershwin's score builds to a horrible crescendo has been changed to her removing her dress and leading him there. Porgy's crippled state, originally dragging himself around stage on a flat goat cart has become a limp and a cane -- and, in this production, he announces in new dialogue by Suzan-Lori Parks that he is a cripple, as though he couldn't show us the way he always did. Most of Parks' new dialogue takes the form of song cues that were never needed before in the original opera. And, according to the reviews I've read, it is the music that suffers the most. The 22-piece orchestra (not insubstantial by today's standards) has been orchestrated with arbitrary rhythm changes, and new harmonies and counterpoint that make no sense.

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