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“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” has just opened at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a new adaptation by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, composer Diedre Murray, and director Diane Paulus.
“Porgy and Bess,” which premiered in 1935, has been hailed as a landmark for its casting of classically-trained African American singers, and some of the songs, including “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” have become classics.
But during the Civil Rights years, the opera was criticized for its portrayal of African Americans and Harry Belefonte turned down the chance to play Porgy in the 1959 film version. Veteran Broadway singer and actor Norm Lewis who plays Porgy has been called “goosebump raising” in the role. He says that when he approached Porgy, he didn’t want to get into the racial aspect as much as to find the truth of the character.