The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess closes today, having played over 300 performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The famed American folk opera debuted on Broadway in 1935, but this production brought it to a whole new audience. The stunning score features Gershwin classics like “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty Of Nothin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”.
Before the production even began performances on Broadway, it had created a stir. Director Diane Paulus, along with playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and composer Diedre Murray (who adapted this version of the opera to make it more suitable for Broadway), announced their intention to flesh out the character of Bess in particular, and to make further changes to the show in order to make it more palatable for modern audiences who might find aspects of its portrayal of poor black life outdated. Many theater purists were outraged at the thought of changes being made to a musical masterpiece, but eventually their voices were drowned out by the positive buzz and acclaim that accompanied the show when it finally opened.
Porgy and Bess won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, and star Audra McDonald nabbed yet another Tony. The musical also received numerous additional nominations for stars Norm Lewis, Phillip Boykin, and David Alan Grier, for director Paulus, and for the show’s orchestrators and designers.