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PORGY AND BESS Starts Performances at A.R.T. 8/17

Complete_Cast_Announced_for_PORGY_AND_BESS_20010101A.R.T. American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) opens its 2011-12 season with The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin. The adaptation by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Obie Award-winning composer Diedre L. Murray, directed by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, with choreography by Ronald K. Brown, begins previews on August 17 and opens for the reviewing press on August 31 at 7pm. Performances are at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge. Tickets for preview performances are currently on sale, remaining tickets for the run go on sale on July 12.

Led by Audra McDonald as Bess and Norm Lewis as Porgy, the Company includes David Alan Grier as Sporting Life, Joshua Henry as Jake, Phillip Boykin as Crown, Nikki Renée Daniels as Clara, Bryonha Marie Parham as Serena, NaTasha Yvette Williams as Maria, Cedric Neal as Frazier, J.D. Webster as Mingo, Heather Hill as Lily, Phumzile Sojola as Peter, Nathaniel Stampley as Robbins, Joseph Dellger as the Coroner, and Christopher Innvar as the Detective. The ensemble also includes Allison Blackwell, Roosevelt André Credit, Trevon Davis, Joseph Dellger, Wilkie Ferguson, Alicia Hall Moran, Andrea Jones-Sojola, and Lisa Nicole Wilkerson.

THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS began its life as DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy, which he and his wife Dorothy Heyward adapted into a play. George Gershwin wanted to write an American opera - a piece that would infuse classical musical tradition with what he considered the vigor of blues and jazz, two distinctly American musical forms. He found in Porgy the perfect vehicle, and with Heyward as librettist and Ira Gershwin as lyricist, Gershwin's new opera had its premiere in Boston's Colonial Theater on September 30, 1935. Broadway performances followed featuring a cast of classically trained African-American singers - a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time.

This classic American tale tells the story of the beautiful and troubled Bess, who turns to Porgy, the crippled beggar, in search of safety after her possessive lover Crown commits murder. As Porgy and Bess's love grows, their future is threatened by Crown and the conniving Sportin' Life. The heartbreaking love story is set in the late 1930s in Catfish Row, a neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina and boasts some of the most famous and beloved works from the Great American Songbook including "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "I Loves You, Porgy."

Creating a new version of Gershwin's renowned Porgy and Bess is a privilege bestowed upon Diane Paulus and the A.R.T by the estates of George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward in their desire to take the work from the opera house to the musical stage and its popular roots. The new production maintains the original setting and includes all of the great and beloved songs. /over

A.R.T. presents The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess - page 2 of 6

Set design is by Riccardo Hernandez (Il Postino at LA Opera, Washington Opera, and Le Chatelet, Paris; numerous productions at A.R.T.), costume design by Project Runway finalist ESosa, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind (Tony Award for The Light in the Piazza; The Seagull, Britannicus and others at A.R.T.), sound by Acme Sound Partners, and casting by Telsey + Company. Orchestration is by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, the Music Supervisor is David Loud, and the conductor is Sheilah Walker.

This production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is being presented in association with Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel.

About the Cast:

Audra McDonald (Bess) is the recipient of four Tony Awards for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime, and A Raisin in the Sun, and a nomination for her performance in Marie Christine. She reprised her Raisin role for a 2008 television adaptation, earning her an Emmy Award nomination. McDonald appeared as Lizzie in the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2007 revival of 110 in the Shade, for which she shared the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical with Donna Murphy. She frequently performs in concert throughout the US and has performed with musical institutions such as the New York Philharmonic and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Carnegie Hall commissioned the song cycle The Seven Deadly Sins: A Song Cycle for McDonald, and she performed it at Carnegie's Zankel Hall in 2004. She sang in Francis Poulenc's La Voix Humaine and the world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's Send (who are you? I love you) at Houston Grand Opera, and in Kurt Weill's opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at LA Opera (the resulting recording won two Grammy Awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album in 2009). Her television roles include the ABC television drama Private Practice as Dr. Naomi Bennett, the HBO film Wit (Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a miniseries), Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, The Bedford Diaries, and Kidnapped, and the 1999 television remake of Annie as Daddy Warbucks' secretary, Miss Farrell. Her films include Best Thief in the World, It Runs in the Family, The Cradle Will Rock, The Object of My Affection, and Seven Servants. McDonald has recorded four solo albums for Nonesuch Records, including Way Back to Paradise, How Glory Goes, Happy Songs, and Build a Bridge.

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