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‘The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess’ delivers outstanding emotional performance

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"The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess" at the Benedum Center

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Featuring a stunning cast of amazing singers and actors, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” is a must-see performance that will educate and move the soul. The show opened Tuesday night to a packed house at the Benedum Center.

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This isn’t a traditional sing-along musical performance; “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” is a drama about real life in the 1930s. Sex, drugs, violence, murder and racism are present at every turn smacking you in the face with the harsh reality of what life was just 80 years ago.

The show is adapted from the original four-hour opera “Porgy and Bess” with a vision to reach a new audience and educate the minds. Starring Alicia Hall Moran (Bess) and Nathaniel Stampley (Porgy) the show redefines opera and traditional love stories that end with happiness because in reality – the good guy doesn’t always get the girl.

Set in the late 1930s on Catfish Row and Kittawah Island in Charleston, South Carolina – “Porgy and Bess” is a love story centered on two men (Porgy and Crown) who desire the same woman (Bess). Crown, the strong and mighty but fairly abusive lover who enjoys his “happy dust” and drinking kills a man at the start of the show leaving Bess alone. She finds comfort in the arms of Porgy, a crippled man who has never known love. Through his positive influence, Bess seems to change her fate getting off drugs and drinking and being accepted in the community, until Crown returns to “claim his girl.”

The show features iconic songs from the Gershwins such as “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “I Got Plenty of Nothing” which were delivered with perfection from the entire cast. Staying true to the opera roots, each song was a powerful performance that mixed a little musical theater with the strong opera base. Each song was a showcase of the amazing power of the human voice from range to style and passion. Every note, every breath, every emotion was crystal clear.

While Stampley and Moran had incredibly large roles on stage barely ever leaving, the entire cast deserves credit for their moving performance – especially Danielle Lee Greaves as the ever feisty – Mariah. Her performance of “I Hates Your Strutting Style” was delivered with a vengeance and it was clear she was not a woman to be crossed. If I was Sporting Life (Kingsley Leggs), the troublemaker, I would have been shaking in my boots!

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” is not only great exposure to opera, it’s highly educational about what life like was in the 1930s in regards to racism. For information on teachable moments in the show check out the study guide on the shows official website www.porgyandbessthemusical.com.

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” will run through March 2 at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at just $20 and are available for all performances. For more information visit www.trustarts.org.

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