This weekend, I visited the Big Apple and was lucky enough to score tickets to an evening performance of Porgy and Bess featuring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis.
I was familiar with Audra through YouTube videos of her solo recordings but had never seen her perform live before, so I was in awe of the fact that she was a mere 15 yards away from me, performing one of the most difficult roles in opera. As an addict, Bess’s character is hard to love and for most, hard to relate to, but I think this is what makes the relationship between Porgy and Bess so special. Porgy is willing to accept her as she is and treats her with more love and respect than any character in the show. Both Audra and Norm really became their characters and the best scenes of the show were where they were together alone: “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” and “I Loves You Porgy”.
Some other actors that I feel deserve mentions are David Alan Grier, who plays the persistent drug-dealer Sportin’ Life and Joshua Henry who played fisherman Jake. Grier’s comical rendition of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” brought the house down, and his antagonistic relationship with Mariah (played by Natasha Yvette Williams) was really the comic relief of the show. In my opinion, Joshua Henry, playing Jake, had the best voice of the show. Though I did not hear him go into high or low operatic ranges, the deep, rich color of his voice was enough to make my heart melt!
In general, the ensemble and secondary roles all had great voices and characters. Even the soloist singing the brief strawberry solo stuck out in my mind with her clear and crisp tone that rang through the theater.
Overall, the show was a hit. The choreography was fluid, unique and quite enjoyable to watch. The voices, from singing gospel hums to operatic lines were strong, clear and beautiful. The acting was dramatic and left me feeling fully engaged in every moment of the show. I feel very lucky to have seen this show in the last few weeks of its revived life!