You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Porgy and Bess

Bess ... Vanessa Stewart, etc.

Porgy ... William Marshall, etc. Crown ... Stephen Finch Serena ...Angela R. Simpson, etc. Clara ... Iris Fairfax, etc. Sportin' Life ... John Lesane

Bess … Vanessa Stewart, etc.

Also with: Cornelius White, Marenda Perry, Elizabeth Graham, Roberta Laws, Bridgette Louise Cooper, Gail Blache-Gill, Marjorie Wharton, Marvin Lowe, Gordon Easley, Leon Browne, Valerie Hamm, Sabrina Carten, Danrell Williams, Ozie Jamison, Jerrod Sanders, Casey L. McClellan, Johnnie Jackson, Julianna Kelley, Rita Madero, Louisa Sebron.

One of the most pleasant surprises — and, at $ 30 top, best values — on the touring circuit is this long-running Charleston, S.C., production of the Gershwins'”Porgy and Bess.” Produced by Living Arts Inc. president Peter Klein in a way that makes low-priced tickets possible, it’s been on the road periodically since December 1992 throughout the U.S. and Canada.

(The latest leg of its tour was scheduled to end with three performances in Albuquerque, N.M., the week following its New Haven weekend. In June it will play nine performances in Israel in the outdoor Caesarea Roman Amphitheater. And in the fall it will resume its U.S. touring, including return engagements.)

The cast (which rotates all of the major roles) is made up largely of performers with experience in other “Porgy and Bess” productions, and vocally the production is hearteningly strong, led at New Haven’s two matinees by William Marshall’s exceptional Porgy. The possessor of a deep, rich, pure baritone and incomparably clear diction, Marshall is also a big, powerful man — thereby making plausible the scene in which Porgy kills Crown (played with daring physicality by Stephen Finch).

Marshall’s singing and charisma are major reasons why the production’s ending is so genuinely moving. It’s not surprising to learn that after he’s shared the role of Porgy with Brian Gibson in Israel, Marshall will take over the role of Joe in Hal Prince’s smash-hit Toronto revival of “Show Boat.”

At the performance seen, Bess was played by Vanessa Stewart, a tall, striking woman. Stewart, who first appears in scarlet velvet, lives up to that vivid dress. She has a lustrous, if sometimes slightly unfocused, dramatic soprano voice, which she uses with an all-out recklessness that’s entirely apt for the role. And she and Marshall sing and interact passionately.

As good as they are, they’d be even better if the production as a whole had more forceful and imaginative direction. The skeletal Catfish Row setting, switched to other locales by the use of changing backdrops and a sail-like drape , is perfectly acceptable. So are the costumes from the Virginia Opera’s 1992 production.

Also bringing rich operatic voices to the production are Angela R. Simpson’s large-scale Serena and Iris Fairfax’s lyrical Clara. John Lesane’s Sportin’ Life is more sung than acted, the pluses and minuses of this straight approach coming out about even. The full cast’s choral singing is particularly impressive, and the miking leaves the voices sounding blessedly natural.

The reduced, 17-member orchestra is well prepared by David Stahl and conducted by Richard Cordova, though the sound isn’t always ideally full. And as is often the case with “Porgy and Bess,” this production cuts some music and characters, though it still runs nearly three hours, with one intermission. Given the vocal and dramatic demands of the opera, this attractively priced touring production is a small miracle.

Porgy and Bess

Production: NEW HAVEN A Living Arts Inc. touring presentation of an opera in two acts with music by George Gershwin, book by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Directed by Will Roberson. Charleston Symphony Orchestra (David Stahl, musical director; Richard Cordova, conductor).

Crew: Sets, James Fouchard; costumes, Candace Donnelly; lighting, John McLain; sound, Duncan Edwards; choreography, Kevin Jeff; tour direction, William Weir; orchestral adaptation, Steve Cohen; Shubert Performing Arts Center executive director, Caroline Werth. Opened, reviewed April 9, 1994, at the Shubert Theater. 1,616 seats; $ 30 top.

With: Porgy ... William Marshall, etc. Crown ... Stephen Finch Serena ...Angela R. Simpson, etc. Clara ... Iris Fairfax, etc. Sportin' Life ... John Lesane

More Film

  • Aaron Paul attends the 2019 Sun

    Aaron Paul, Chelsea Handler and Meg Ryan Topline Sun Valley Film Fest

    Aaron Paul is an Idaho boy at heart. The three-time Emmy winning star of “Breaking Bad” and producer and actor on Nickelodeon’s bawdy, subversive animated series “Bojack Horseman” currently makes his home in Los Angeles, but Paul was born in Emmett, a sleepy city about 30 miles outside of Boise, and escapes to the spud [...]

  • Writers Guild Blasts CAA, WME for

    Writers Guild Blasts Talent Agencies CAA, WME for 'Soaring' Profits

    The Writers Guild of America has singled out Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, for allegedly soaring profits. The WGA, in an acrimonious negotiation over proposed new rules about how agencies represent writers, issued a report called “agencies for sale” on Monday morning — a few hours before a fifth [...]

  • MGM logo

    MGM Hires Robert Marick to Expand Consumer Products

    Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences. In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, [...]

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Personal Tales From Hong Kong, China

    Personal Tales From Hong Kong and China Among the Asia Film Financing Forum Projects

    A brace of personal tales from China and Hong Kong are among the 23 projects vying for attention at the 17th Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. Liu Miaomiao is a rare female ethnic Hui Muslim filmmaker. She came to international prominence with 1993’s “Chatterbox” that won the President of the Italian Senate’s Gold Medal [...]

  • Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year

    Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year She Takes Risks in Her Film Choices

    Josie Ho vows to master the art of calculated risk in the year 2019. As an actress and film producer, she is conscious of the choices of projects she makes: appearing in the new film by Japanese hotshot director Shinichiro Ueda, producing a new documentary feature while developing some 10 titles in the pipeline of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content