Porgy & Bess For A New Generation On Broadway

A thrilling opening night for The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, January 12 , 2012.

Last week, The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, my latest Broadway co-producing endeavor, opened on Broadway. It was a thrilling evening. The cast, including the extraordinary Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier, brought down the house and I have to admit, I enjoyed rubbing shoulders with some of my favorite celebs including Angela Lansbury, Paul Simon, Spike Lee, Christine Baranski, Candace, Bergen, Nathan Lane, Barbara Cook, Alan Alda, and many more, but enough shameless name dropping.

I’m pleased to report that the show is both a critical and financial success. This producing project has been a particularly fascinating experience because the Broadway revival stirred up a remarkable amount of controversy due to the significant revisions that were made to this historic masterpiece to make it accessible to a modern day Broadway audience.

You can see some of the drama played out here:
NY TIMES – STEPHEN SONDHEIM TAKES ISSUE WITH PORGY & BESS
NY TIMES – GERSHWIN HEIRS FLEX THEIR RIGHTS

I’m personally very pleased that this incredible piece of American artistic history has been revived (and revised) to give it a dynamic new life for a new generation of audiences who would otherwise not experience this beautiful and important work.

In my opinion, musical theater survives as a relevant and vibrant art form because it continues to be fresh and new. Unlike opera (where Porgy & Bess lived and was dying), Broadway embraces new forms and new approaches. I applaud the Gershwin family for braving the wrath of the purists to bring this sleek and stunning revival of their brilliant legacy, Porgy & Bess, to triumphant life on Broadway this season. Long may it run!

5 Responses to Porgy & Bess For A New Generation On Broadway

  1. Congratulations! Yes, I remember when the Sondheim article came out. I wonder what Lehman Engel would have said about all of this, as he was so instrumental in solidifying Porgy and Bess as a timeless American masterpiece.

  2. My honest opinion is: who cares as long as Audra is in it, lol. It would take a lot for me not to want to see her in it. Maybe if Philip Glass or John Adams did new arrangements. I’m thrilled for you Brisa.

  3. cb says:

    You forgot to mention Francis Ford Coppola — but as you say (and Al Pacino once told me) it is crude to name drop !
    As for the SS controversy, the best I heard it put in response someone who rightiously procliamed: “You don’t mess with the Mona Lisa” was this:
    Unlike a painting, musical theatre is a living, breathing thing. Each production is a new reflection of US. That’s why we go to theatre.

  4. Mahesh,

    Lehman Engel was a great music director on Broadway back in the golden age. He had many accomplishments, and he is best known today for having started the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop (in NYC), which has launched the careers of COUNTLESS composers and lyricists, from Ed Kleban to Flaherty and Ahrens to Maury Yeston to Bobby Lopez and the list goes on and on!

    That being said, what I was referring to was his interest in securing Porgy and Bess’s placement in musical theatre and opera history. He was the first to make a significant recording of the opera (though not the complete score) back in the early 50s. At that time, Porgy and Bess (from what I understand) was not well known outside of opera-lovers’ circles. His recording brought Porgy and Bess to the forefront of American culture, raising it to perhaps pop status? It wasn’t until many years later that a full length studio recording was made to supplant his. One reason I bring him up in the context of this revival on Broadway, is he could be a stickler about a lot of things, and I’m just honestly curious what his opinion would be about the production. I think he would be very pleased that it has been revived and that there is still interest in it outside of opera circles.

    If I’m incorrect in any of the information here, anyone, please feel free to correct!

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