‘The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess’ is a Broadway opera that first opened in 1935 at Carnegie Hall. To this day, it is still considered as an ‘American classic.’ In 2012, it won a Tony Award for best revival of a musical. This revival had everything working for it; however, in the end it just was not memorable.
The scene is set: the late 1930s in the fabled Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. The main characters are introduced: Bess (Alicia Hall Moran), a shunned woman and Porgy (Nathaniel Stampley), the disabled beggar who takes Bess under his wing. We learn that Crown, is the brutal husband of Bess and after he commits a murder, he leaves Bess to fend for herself. There is also the drug dealer, Sporting Life, who aspires to flee with Bess to New York City.
‘Porgy and Bess’ was a very difficult show to follow. The dialect of the characters was very hard to understand, almost like the actor’s were mumbling their lines. This caused for a hard time in understanding the particularities of the storyline.
The singing was top notch, however, again it was sometimes difficult to understand what the character was singing about. The music was the most important part of the show as 90% of the show was about the music. There was very little choreography, just singing. It is not the feel- good type of music that will have you walking out of the theater, humming your favorite song from the show or feeling overjoyed. The one memorable song was toward the end of the show, ‘There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon’ by Sporting Life (Kingsley Leggs). Sporting Life’s number brought a little Broadway-pizzazz back into this otherwise gloomy show.
It is important to note that Alicia Hall Moran had an angelic-like voice that soared across the theater at times. Her performance as Bess was brilliant and did not feel forced or inhibited. Stampley carried a strong, bold voice that showed the frustration, love and complexity of Porgy. Both of their voices sored in, 'I Loves You,Porgy.' Leggs, who played the character of Sporting Life, reminded of a lot of Doctor Facillier from Disney’s Princess and the Frog. He was spiffy, dark and rather animated in his delivery.
Also, starring in the show is Soara-Joye Ross, who starred in Divorce Party: The Musical when it had its’ run at the Kravis Center.
The scenery was almost non-existent, as it was one giant tan wall that was supposed to make us feel like we were sometimes outside and at other times inside. Often they would bring out a set prop or change the lightening to signify a change of scenery. Perhaps, the director, Diane Paulus, wanted the opera to focus on the music and nothing more. In the middle of Act 2, there was a scene depicting a hurricane, however the special effects in that scene were nothing to write home about.
This was a downright dark and depressing opera (which fits nicely with our current cold and gloomy South Florida weather). From a personal point, it was very hard to find any sort of connection with the show. There were no special, stand out moments for me. It felt long and was very slow moving, even with only a 2 hour and 36 minute runtime. I recommend seeing the show once, if you have not done so already. However, it is not a show I would run out and see every time it comes to the area.
'Porgy and Bess' is now playing at the Kravis Center through January 12th.
Visit kravis.org for more details.