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Porgy and Bess Made An Impact in Houston

Porgy and Bess, one of America's most significant theatrical productions ever written came to Houston's Jones Hall on October 22nd and 23rd. Presented by the Society for the Performing Arts, one of the city's premier arts organizations, the musical stage play is a product of George and Ira Gershwin, two of the most prominent musical playwrights in the history of American theater and music. Taken from a novel and play written by Dubose Heyward, Porgy and Bess is the story of a crippled Porgy and a beautiful woman named Bess. Set in the backdrop of a community known as Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina during the 1930s, this Black American "folk opera" was full of intrigue, pride, passion, humor, murder and some of the most memorable songs ever created. The original stage production of Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935, by most accounts it was one of the most controversial musicals of its time. The production featured a predominantly Black cast, which was considered to be highly ambitious for its time. The ground-breaking event was also the talk of New York, City in 1935 and the music the story provided was filled with jazz and blues influences. Since it originated, the production has been seen throughout the United States and in cities all over the world. The pit stop that the show made in Houston on October 22nd and 23rd was merely another indication of Porgy and Bess's immense popularity and S.P.A.'s overall commitment to being one of the United States' finest arts organizations.

The premier of Porgy and Bess on the stages of Jones Hall was a brilliant display of Black theatrical talent. Porgy who witnessed a murder while participating in a dice game on the streets of Catfish Row begins a journey that is rife with drama. Crown the person deemed responsible for the crime leaves town and his woman Bess behind in order to evade prosecution. Porgy takes in Bess who has no place else to go after her man leaves and a love affair ensues between the two. An admittedly troubled individual, Bess stops using dope, cleans up her act, makes a life with Porgy and they live happily for a while. To further their degree of happiness, they also take in an infant child that was orphaned during a ravaging hurricane. Through a series of highs, lows and a cast of characters that includes a low-life named Sportin' Life, Porgy and Bess experience the course of human events where crime and punishment, love, death, tragedy and survival have an impact on the happiness of the residents of Catfish Row. Crippled Porgy by any stretch of the imagination is the best thing to happen to Bess; however, the drama unfolds negatively for the two of them when Porgy is arrested as a material witness in the murder of Crown in a later segment of the story. Unable to stand alone, Bess reverts to her former life when Porgy is arrested and runs off to New York with the character Sportin' Life. Everything attached to this story is directly related to one unfolding event after the other. When George and Ira Gerswhin wrote Porgy and Bess in 1935, little did they know that almost 70 years later their groundbreaking production would still be a hit, even by today's standards. Throughout its rich history, every successive cast including the one seen in Houston has been brilliant. The musical score attached to the play is augmented by the jazz and blues experience. Many of the songs attached to Porgy and Bess such as "Summertime," "My Man's Gone Now," "Where's My Bess," "A Woman is a Sometime Thing," and "I Got Plenty of Nothin'" have become American classics.

Jazz is an American art form. The genre's influence on music, movies, dance, literature and the theater is well-known, Porgy and Bess is a primary example of that influence. Few jazz beginners or connoisseurs for that matter recognize the crossover appeal of jazz. As the Society for the Performing Arts has so eloquently displayed, this event adds credence to the music, while bringing theatrical excellence to Houston. The Society's motto is "Bringing the World's Best" to Houston. As it stands today, bringing productions such as Porgy and Bess to the city has even greater significance. The commitment to diversity as a goal and as an initiative is just as tremendous as the quality of shows that are provided. This latest event ranks right up there with oxygen in terms of importance.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Unknown
  • Concert Date: 10/22/2004
  • Subtitle: This Folk Opera is an American Classic
  • Venue: Jones Hall
  • City State Country: Houston, Texas - United States
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