Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Porgy and Bess - Perseverance Against All Odds

I had the opportunity to attend the Ordway's production of Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is about the relationship between Bess, a prostitute with a drug habit and Porgy, a beggar, disabled from birth, who loves her in spite of her past.

From the moment the curtain opened I felt like I had stepped into the past - the late 1930s in the fictional setting of Catfish Row of South Carolina.  The opening song was the well-known "Summertime" which I've heard many times out of context - in movies or commercial spoofs or at some of the ballrooms where we've gone dancing.  It was satisfying to hear it sung by Clara and Jake
 (Sumayya Ali and David Hughey) in the backdrop of the sweaty work-a-day world of this black fishing community.  You could almost smell the brine and feel the parched atmosphere.

The music and orchestration were amazing.  I loved the richness of the voices and how they blended together.  And like a good musical the songs portrayed a variety of moods - soulful, playful, mournful or gritty.  I especially liked the dance number during the picnic - the jazzy, swing and rhythmic sequences in colorful Sunday clothing.  (Choreography by Ronald K. Brown)

Photo credit:  Francesco Carrozzini
At times it was hard to hear the words that were being sung, but it was an opera, so some of that is to be expected.  However, the leads, Nathaniel Stampley playing Porgy and Alicia Hall Moran as Bess, had very clear voices.  And of course the story was compelling - the bad girl heroine, the underdog hero and of course, the villain - Crown, Bess's former lover, (Alvin Crawford) and Sporting Life (Kingsley Leggs) the smooth talking drug dealer.  I also enjoyed Mariah, the town matron, (Danielle Lee Greaves) with her mother-hen humor.

Sometimes you just need to get out and see something with a strong theme.  The character of Porgy demonstrates perseverance - never giving up, fighting for someone you love, believing the best about someone.  I think what also amazed me was how the actor was able to walk with his bad leg throughout the whole show.  Talk about perseverance!

After a long, cold Minnesota winter this was a very refreshing and powerful show. 

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
A Tony Award winning musical

Mar. 25-30, 2014 at 7:30 p.m., matinees on Mar. 29 and 30 at 2:00 p.m.

345 Washington Street
St. Paul, MN 55102

Tickets:  651-224-4222

"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" is part of the Ordway's cross-cultural initiative Taking Our Place Centerstage:  The African Diaspora in Harmony, created to increase understanding and awareness of the Twin Cities' Afro-centric culture.    

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