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‘Porgy and Bess’ opens at the Benedum Center Feb. 25

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Based on the novel “Porgy” by DuBose Heyward, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” is a stunning performance featuring iconic Gershwin songs like “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “I Got Plenty of Nothing.” The classic love story is set in Charleston’s Catfish Row and follows Bess as she struggles to break free from her past. When she meets Porgy, he feels compelled to rescue her despite Bess’ hesitation as their relationship evolves into one of the most exciting love stories of all time.

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Starring Nathaniel Sampley as Porgy and Alicia Hall Moran as Bess, the show also features several Pittsburgh natives, including Dan Barnhill, who grew up in the Highland Park area before relocating to New York for better opportunities. While many actors dream of performing in their “dream” roles for shows, Barnhill happened into his Detective role with Porgy and Bess on accident.

“I came in through a strange avenue,” said Barnhill. “I got a phone call from a friend that said … ‘Can you come in RIGHT NOW’ to audition for an understudy role. The opportunity just plopped in my lap. It’s funny how things work out. If you’re not looking, something might just come in and hit you from behind.”

Despite the show’s first performance being in 1935, it remains relevant today because everyone can have a connection with a show based around sex, drugs and love. Originally created as an American Folk Opera, the show has been adapted into a fantastic mix of opera and musical theater.

“It’s a love story between a crippled man and a lady who create romance. It’s a nice mix between opera and musical theater that is retooled for modern sensibility,” said Barnhill. “It’s a very good production. The opera is four hours long and our show is only about 2.5. It’s truly a spectacular piece of work though.”

As any actor would be, Barnhill is quite fond of the few scenes he performs in; however, his favorite moment in the show is when Beth is sick.

“I love a lot of the songs, but my favorite is the ‘Strawberry Woman’ section, which is a dreamy hallucinatory moment after Beth was sick,” said Barnhill. “It has great lighting and reverberated sound.”

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” takes the stage at the Benedum center February 25 – March 2. Great seats are still available and can be purchased at or at the box office. Tickets start at just $20.


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