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.