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'Porgy and Bess' gets musical overhaul on Broadway

By Allison Reitz

Broadway received a Gershwin infusion last night, January 12, with the opening of "The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Helmed by Diane Paulus, the musical adapts and revises George and Ira Gershwin's famed 1935 folk opera. The brothers' original music and DuBose Heyward's book are revised by composer Dierdre L. Murray and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

The action takes place in Charleston's Catfish Row, where the seductress Bess (Audra McDonald) fights between her love for the crippled Porgy (Norm Lewis) and her glowering former lover Crown (Phillip Boykin). Also in the mix of this ensemble cast is the dope-peddling Sporting Life (David Alan Grier).

The musical revision of the famous opera began previews December 17, 2011. Attendance at the 1,349-seat playhouse peaked at 8,944 theatergoers through the week ending January 8, according to the Broadway League. Previous full-schedule weeks saw attendance numbers closer to 7,000.

In the weeks between December 17 and the most recent Broadway reporting week, the production has grossed nearly $2.65 million. Regular ticket prices run between $65 and $135, according to Ticketmaster.com, which also lists premium seats at $175 and $225.

"Porgy and Bess" runs two-and-a-half hours, including an intermission. Evening performances are staged Tuesday at 7 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinee showtimes are set for 2 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Richard Rodgers Theatre is located at 226 West 46th Street in New York, NY. "Porgy and Bess" is playing on a limited engagement schedule through June 24. More details are available on the production's official Web site.

Opening Night: "Porgy and Bess"

Publication Critic Review
Variety Steve Suskin "McDonald and Lewis make it reasonably entertaining, but this 'Porgy Lite' is not nearly as electrifying as the real thing."
New York Times Ben Brantley "'Porgy and Bess' has suddenly risen to its natural heights as towering, emotion-saturated opera."
USA Today Elysa Gardner "A canny and exuberant re-affirmation of the original's enduring brilliance, neither disrespecting Porgy's creators nor patronizing theatergoers."
TheaterMania David Finkle "Quibble if you must about this 'Porgy and Bess,' but it must be acknowledged that where it most counts, it scores."
The Wall Street Journal Terry Teachout "A sanitized, heavily cut rewrite that strips away the show's essence so as to render it suitable for consumption by 21st-century prigs."
New York Magazine Scott Brown "A gorgeous and transportive theatrical rapture that consistently overspills the banks of its own limitations."

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