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An interview with Nathaniel Stampley, star of 'Porgy and Bess'

As part of its 2014 season, Broadway in Detroit is bringing the National Tour of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” to Motown the first week of March. Winner of the 2012 Tony Award® for Best Musical Revival, this soulful production tours with a 23-piece orchestra that pulls the most out of those divine Gershwin songs, including “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “I Got Plenty of Nothing.” Best of all, this tour features many of the Broadway cast members: Nathaniel Stampley as Porgy, Alicia Hall Moran as Bess, Kingsley Leggs as Sporting Life, Sumayya Ali as Clara, and Danielle Lee Greaves as Mariah.

Nathaniel Stampley shines in the Broadway tour of 'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess'
Nathaniel Stampley shines in the Broadway tour of 'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess'Photo by Michael J. Lutch

Nathaniel Stampley, who has received critical acclaim for his performance as Porgy, was nice enough to take time from his busy tour schedule to answer a few questions.

Q) You have some serious Broadway credentials, international and regional tour experience, plus a stint with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Can you tell us how your theatrical journey led to this starring role in the national tour of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”?

Nathaniel Stampley: I have enjoyed working on a lot of shows with many truly amazing artists. I have been open to explore many wonderful characters on and offstage that has led me to doing this tour. I also believe in working hard and prayer.

Q) For the new 2012 revival of “Porgy and Bess,” you understudied both the role of Crown – the physically strong but spiritually crippled man – and Porgy, the man with crippled legs who wins Bess’s heart with his spiritual strength. How does your understanding of Crown inform your performance as Porgy?

Nathaniel Stampley: Bess is always at the emotional center of the piece. She stirs the emotions of everyone that she meets. The biggest difference is that Porgy changes for the better and Crown is trying grasping to hold on to the past.

Q. The traditional version of “Porgy and Bess” and been performed several times in this area, including by the Michigan Opera Theatre. How would you characterize the differences in this new production?

Nathaniel Stampley: The major difference with this production versus the traditional version is that the story is front and center. Stripped of large sets and large casts audiences get to focus on the characters and their journeys throughout the show.

Q) What would you like to tell Detroit audiences about this show? Do you have any favorite scenes we should be watching for?

Nathaniel Stampley: Detroit audiences will get the chance to enjoy Gershwin's wonderful music in the context of the show, while having a thrilling night of theater filled with love, loss and hope.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see and hear Mr. Stampley in action. “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” plays at the Detroit Opera House March 4 – 9, 2014, with shows on Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m., and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, online at Broadway in Detroit or at the Fisher Theatre box office and at the Detroit Opera House box office. The beautiful Detroit Opera House is located at 1526 Broadway Street, in Detroit, near Comerica Park.