BWW Interviews: Alvin Crawford Sings the Praises of PORGY & BESS
"You're going to hear some of the most beautiful voices in this show," said Alvin Crawford, who plays Crown in the THE GERSHWINS' PORGY and BESS, the Broadway musical opening at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in Saint Paul on March 25 and running through March 30.
Based on DuBose Heyward's novel, "Porgy," and the play of the same name, which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward, the Broadway revival of THE GERSHWINS' PORGY & BESS is a new staging for musical theatre. "It's not the four-hour opera version," said Crawford. He says this PORGY is streamlined and a great intro to the show for people who are unfamilliar, but he assures that people will hear familliar songs in this show they did not realize were from the show. "It's an honor to bring it across the country," he said. "It's truly a masterpiece."
While perhaps the most famous song from the 2012 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival is "Summertime," Crawford says he particularly loves, "I Loves You, Porgy," and thinks it one of the best in the show with music penned by George and Ira Gershwin. The show's timeless, brilliant music is undeniably beautiful, Crawford says. "The voices are extraordinary."
Crawford's Crown is the villain of the show, and while he's proud to be a part of it, he was initially aprehensive about the part in the beginning. The 1930s-set story centers around the love-triangle of Porgy, Bess and Crown. Crown and Bess were a couple, both drug users. Then, Crawford says something happens that causes Crown to leave but he says he'll come back for his girl. While he is away, Bess falls for Porgy, and when Crown eventually returns, trouble ensues.
The heart of the show, for him, is that Bess displays the courage to love fully, and that is what resonates with people. "She has the courage to fall for somebody who's real... a crippled beggar."
"The story is really about the power of love," said Crawford. "That it can override anything, even a brute like Crown." Crown is an embarrasment to the community, which can be fun to play, he admits. Crown can be very violent, too, and uses his fists to deal with his problems. While that can be cathartic to him as an actor, when he gets out his day's frustrations on stage, he says he needs to find the humanity in his character. For Crawford, that's Crown's love for Bess and his integrity -- he does what he says he will.
Crawford is a graduate of The Julliard School who's always been singing. Originally from Toronto, he sang a lot of opera and lived in Europe until he got a call to be in THE LION KING on Broadway, where he spent six and a half years as the understudy for Mufasa. He also was in Phylicia Rashad's production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN. Crawford even spent some time in Minneapolis at the Guthrie back in 1999 when he appeared in MARTIN GUERRE.
For tickets and more information, please visit www.ordway.org
For more information about the tour, please visit www.porgyandbessthemusical.com
For more information or to purchase the 2012 Broadway Cast Recording, visit http://www.psclassics.com/