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Audra McDonald Leaves “Private Practice” To Star In Suzan-Lori Parks “Porgy And Bess” Revival

Aha! So this is why (or at least partly why) she left Private Practice! :)

She’s coming home… and by that I mean, not just to New York City where her family is, but back to the theater stage, where she got her start.

The 4-time Tony Award-winning actress is reportedly in talks to star in a revival of the George Gershwin/DuBose Heyward opera Porgy and Bess, which will bow at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, this September.

Playbill.com has learned that McDonald, a soprano, would of course play Bess in the new production.

As reported on this blog last November, a stage revival of the groundbreaking opera is coming in 2011, in a collaboration between Pultizer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog) and Diane Paulus (the Tony Award-nominated director for her revival of Hair).

Paulus will helm the production, with Diedre Murray composing, contemporizing and rearranging George Gershwin’s famed score, likely cutting it down from its original 4-hour running time.

Suzan-Lori Parks will be working on the text of the musical.

Our approach is fresh and respectful; we’re working to retain all the best-loved elements of the original while crafting a piece that speaks to contemporary audiences,” Ms Parks said.

While the work is slated to open the American Repertory Theater’s 2011-12 season this September, the producers certainly aren’t counting out an eventual Broadway run as well, which wouldn’t be a first for the work. Of course there was the 1959 film adaptation, which starred Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge, directed by Otto Preminger.

So, who knows? We just might eventually see a contemporary retelling of the story on film again as well.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that 2010 marked the 75th anniversary of the Gershwin work – a work that’s certainly a product of its time, in terms of its characterizations of black people, sparking racial controversy since its debut in 1935. I’m not sure how “contemporary” this revival will be.

Theater geeks, feel free to chime in…

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