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On This Day: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess Revival Opens At Richard Rodgers

Jazmine Harper-Davis



Michael J. Lutch/Courtesy of the American Repertory Theater

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 12.24.46 PMFive years ago today, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess revival starring six-time Tony Winner Audra McDonald and Tony Nominees Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier opened on Broadway. Directed by Tony Winner Diane Paulus, the book got a bit of extra work from Suzan-Lori Parks who adapted the four-hour folk opera into a two-and-a-half-hour production.

At the time, the revival was under fire by Stephen Sondheim who criticized Paulus, McDonald and Park’s “disdain” toward the work, and the new title because it excluded the contribution of original American author DuBose Heyward

. The cast and creative team thought differently, the adapted version made the work more appealing to a contemporary audience and showed the complexity of these characters. Critics agreed noting that the Paulus/Parks version was able to humanize “the depiction of race onstage.”

Previews for the revival began at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on December 17th, 2011 and officially opened January 12th, 2012. The show closed its curtains on September 23rd, 2012 after playing a total of 293 performances – the longest run in the shows history. The musical went on to win Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical (Audra’s first for this category and 5th overall) and Best Revival of a Musical.

Photos by Michael J. Lutch/Courtesy of the American Repertory Theater


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