Friday, November 10, 2006

London Critics Find Plenty Of Something In Porgy And Bess

London Critics Find Plenty Of Something In Porgy And Bess

Over the past five months, I've been reporting on the progression of Trevor Nunn's revised staging of Porgy And Bess on its way to the London stage, as well as preliminary plans to take it to Broadway. Last night marked the official opening on the West End, and from the praise it's receiving from critics, it is sure to become a hot ticket across the pond.

Calling it a "triumph," Paul Taylor of The Independent hurls superlative after superlative on Porgy And Bess: "'Electrifying' is an overworked word in the critical lexicon, but if ever a show deserved it, it is Trevor Nunn's magnificent revival of the (George and Ira) Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. The precise terminology to use about this show may be a matter of dispute (where on the spectrum between opera and musical does it lie?) but what is beyond doubt is that is a masterpiece of the first order....Clarke Peters is wonderfully moving as Porgy even when under some vocal strain, and Nicola Hughes is fabulous as Bess."

In offering up four out of five stars along with a proclamation that this slimmed-down Porgy And Bess is "a revitalising effort," Nicholas de Jongh of the Evening Standard has praise: "Trevor Nunn has triumphantly rescued George Gershwin's famous black folk opera from its familiar, upmarket billets at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, reconceiving it as a musical for the people....The show's intoxicating mix of sex and love in a black South Carolina fishing community, beset by drug-taking, dicing and double murder, slips smoothly into modern operatic or musical form."

Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail also "loves" this show: "Sir Trevor Nunn has trimmed it, made it more approachable, and generally given it some West End top-spin. The result is highly watchable. It may have a few odd changes of gear. It may lack the classical intellectualism which, in the operatic form, can save this Deep South negro story from dipping near ole hokum. But it still has the wonderful music of George and Ira Gershwin. With a gifted cast and a decent wind -- of which more in a moment -- this baby flies."

Providing three out of five stars, The Guardian's Michael Billington views Porgy And Bess as "museum-piece" in noting that "[I]f Trevor Nunn's lovingly detailed revival proves anything, it is that the work itself is an intriguing period-piece rather than a timeless classic....Dramatic action is...sometimes poorly motivated....The cast Clarke Peters lends Porgy a dignity and strength, and Nicola Hughes's Bess moves from whiskey-sozzler to child-rearer with ease."

If earlier reports hold true, Nunn's vision of bringing this Porgy And Bess to Broadway will occur sometime after its London run is completed. Currently, Porgy And Bess is booking through March 31, although with these reviews, it could very well run longer.

But let's hope that when it does transfer to the Great White Way, that it finds a home large enough to house the enormity of the effort.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Two Openings, One Night, Nunn Shines (November 9, 2006)
Nunn Finds His Porgy And Bess (August 25, 2006)
Trevor Nunn's West End Porgy and Bess Will Transfer to Broadway (July 25, 2006)
Nunn Better: Porgy and Bess Set for London Revival (June 30, 2006)

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