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Audra McDonald Confirms Role In Suzan-Lori Parks “Porgy And Bess” Revival

In my last post on this, she was said to be “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.

Today, we learn that she’s confirmed it! The Private Practice alum and 4-time Tony Award-winning actress, will indeed be 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.

I’m looking forward to it. I feel like I’m old enough,McDonald told while attending the recent Broadway opening of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

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.

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…

3 comments to Audra McDonald Confirms Role In Suzan-Lori Parks “Porgy And Bess” Revival

  • NothingButAMan

    I love it. I may have to plan an NYC…

  • etomi

    Dear Tambay:
    You now have me singing: “Porgie, I’se yo’ woman now…I is….I is..” & “It ain’t necessarily so, it ain’t necessarily so…the thangs that yo’ liable to read in de ain’t necessarily so…”. The music, though in dialect, is some of the best stuff out there, and many of the songs have become standards in the repertoire of a lot of African American vocalists — me included. Especially “There’s a boat that’s leavin’ soon for New York”, “I Loves You, Porgy” and “Summertime”. Hearing Nina Simone sing “I Loves you, Porgy” is like falling in love for the first time.

    I am interested in how the writers will be able to update the story. As a child, I saw the movie only once on TV. This was in the late 60s. I believe that it was never shown again because of the backlash related to the stereotypes that were pervasive in the film.

    This play, especially with the wonderful Audra MacDonald, will be worth the ticket price and the trip to the Big Apple. Her talents are so much more realized on the Broadway stage than they ever were in her incredibly shrinking role on TVs Private practice.

  • JasonJee

    I’m sorry but I don’t get these ‘sittin around the shack’ old timey hat-in-hand tales…