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show in order to make it more palatable for modern audiences who might find aspects of its portrayal of poor black life outdated.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.
As the 2012-2013 season gets in gear, several currently running Broadway musicals and plays are readying to close to make way for the new crop. Here are four that you should see while you still have the chance.
Sister Act(closing August 26) – Raven-Symone (The Cosby Show) is currently starring in this stage version of the popular Whoopi Goldberg movie about a club singer who disguises herself as a nun after witnessing a murder. One of the best of Broadway’s fluffy musicals, Sister Act is full of funny characters and toe-tapping ’70s soul numbers courtesy of composer Alan Menken.
One Man, Two Guvnors(closing September 2) – This British import has had Broadway audiences rolling in the aisles all summer. A manic farce set in the 1960s, One Man, Two Guvnors includes wild slapstick, hilarious gags involving the audience, and musical interludes featuring a fantastic band playing original rock ‘n’ roll tunes reminscent of the play’s time period.
The Best Man(closing September 9) – Timely for a presidential election year, this 1960 comedy by the late Gore Vidal stands up surprisingly well over 50 years after it was written. The play itself is admittedly good, not great, but its starry cast makes it worth a visit. James Earl Jones is giving the production’s most enjoyable performance as a former president, and his impressive list of co-stars includes John Stamos, Elizabeth Ashley, Cybill Shepherd, John Larroquette, and Kristin Davis.
Porgy and Bess(closing September 23) – Though controversial in theatrical circles because of the many changes made from the original version, this Broadway production of the Gershwin folk opera has been largely well-received by audiences and with good reason. A powerful story, strong performances (Norm Lewis and multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald play the leads), and unforgettable music make this a great evening in the theater.
Many Broadway shows were honored at the 2012 Tony Awards this past Sunday evening, but it was the musical Once, based on the Irish indie film of the same name, that received the most recognition, nabbing eight Tonys (including Best Musical and Best Leading Actor for Steve Kazee).
Little-show-that-could Peter and the Starcatcher won the second largest number of Tony Awards, taking a total of five Tonys, including Best Featured Actor in a Play for Christian Borle (now well-known to TV audiences for his role as a Broadway songwriter in the NBC series Smash).
Beloved Broadway actress Audra McDonald received her fifth Tony Award, this time for her acclaimed performance in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which took the Best Musical Revival award.
The Best Play award went to the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park, while the Best Revival of a Play award went to the sell-out production of Arthur Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman (co-starring Andrew Garfield, star of the new Spider-man movie).
Newsies, the Disney film flop that has now become a popular Broadway show, won Best Score (for lyricist Jack Feldman and composer Alan Menken), as well as Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli’s energetic dance moves.
Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, this year’s Tony Awards ceremony not only featured the presentation of the awards to this season’s winners, but also several musical performances (including a special performance by the cruise ship cast of Hairspray on the high seas) and special awards like one given to Hugh Jackman in recognition of the money he raised for charity while performing his solo show.