Porgy and Bess

Posted on: 12 August 2014 by 50connect editorial

Laurence Green enjoys an an evening of musical excellence at the Regent's Park open air theatre production of "Porgy and Bess"

Porgy and BessOne of the greatest works of the American musical theatre naturally George Gershwin’s 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess has been revived in a sophisticated sinuous new production directed by Timothy Sheader, at the open air theatre, Regent’s Park.

The action is set in the slum tenement of catfish row, South Carolina, in the 1920s and centres on the tumultuous relationship between Porgy, the disabled beggar who is big of heart and optimistic of soul and the tortured Bess, whom he tries to save from her troubled past.

A powerful story of love and betrayal drawn from a 1925 novel by DuBose Heyward, this is a slow burning production which is nevertheless finely nuanced and exquisitely sung. However it is hampered by Katrina Lindsay’s huge crushed bronze, abstract sculpture design which fails to evoke the world of hardship and deprivation in which the story is set. But a storm scene is thrillingly evoked by the twirling of a dozen scruffy coloured chairs.

The score by George Gershwin, with lyrics by his brother Ira is truly outstanding with so many classic numbers which have defied the test of time such as “I got plenty of nothing”,” It aint necessarily so” and the poignantly beautiful “summertime”, all of which do much to illuminate character and action. Indeed the complex weave of harmonies, blending spirituals, jazz folk and opera has never been equalled.

Nicola Hughes (who appeared in Trevor Nunn’s 2006 production) excels as the voluptuous Bess, a woman torn by conflicting desire in the small closely knit fishing community where drugs and drink battle for supremacy with the word of the lord, while Rufus Brando Jr. is no less impressive as the crippled pauper, Porgy, who offers her unconditional love. Strong support is provided by Phillip Boykin as the alcoholic bruiser, Crown, who turns a games of craps into a bloodbath and Cedric Neal as a drug pushing snake in the grass called Sporting Life who supplies Bess with “happy dust” she uses to self medicate her pain.

The production has the largest company of singers and musicians that the open air theatre has ever seen and certainly provides an evening of musical excellence.

Porgy and Bess

Runs at the open air theatre, Regent’s Park, until August 23rd

Box Office: 0844 826 4242

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