Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Porgy and Bess
I know that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, nor a show by its poster, but as soon as I saw the one for Porgy and Bess, I had serious misgivings about this production. For one thing, a vertical Porgy, looking down at Bess, is no more Porgy than a shy Mame is Mame or a cheerful, teetotaling Blanche DuBois is Blanche DuBois. Also, the noir-ish quality of the poster is miles away from Catfish Row.
I understand that many of the changes were made with the idea of making Porgy and Bess more of a musical than an opera, but too much is lost. The grandeur is gone. With the size and myth so reduced, the opera doesn't become a musical but rather it becomes a soap opera. It doesn't help that the orchestrations are often thin, the set fails to evoke Catfish Row, and Norm Lewis lacks the gravitas and voice for Porgy. (His "I Got Plenty of Nothing" is completely wrong for the show.)
Of course, it's the only Porgy and Bess we have in New York right now, and a thin version is better than none. It's more successful in my eyes than the recent productions of, for example, A Little Night Music and Follies. It has glorious voices. It has Audra McDonald, well on her way, I suspect, to Tony #5. It has that score.
It's Porgy and Bess lite, but I'm glad I saw it.
(Rear mezzanine, first act. Second row orchestra to the side, second act. TDF ticket)