Porgy and Bess is recognized as an American masterpiece. A story that intertwines pride, prejudice, pathos and passion through a jazz and blues influenced score. Originally billed as a “Folk Opera”, Porgy and Bess introduced classic Gershwin songs including “Summertime”, “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, as well as magnificent and enthralling choruses that stunned music and drama critics alike at its premiere in 1935.



Based on the DuBose Heyward novel set in Charleston’s famed Catfish Row, Porgy and Bess tells the moving story of Porgy, a cripple who witnesses a murder during a dice game and later gives shelter to the murderer’s woman, the beautiful, haunted Bess. The Catfish Row community is opposed to the union, but Porgy and Bess make each other happy and their happiness only increases when they take in a child orphaned by a hurricane. Their happiness is shattered when the murderer, Crown, returns for Bess, and Porgy, defending his family, kills him. The police detain him for questioning but never dream that a cripple could be the killer, so Porgy returns triumphantly to the Row. The triumph turns to tragedy, quickly, when he learns that while he was away, Sportin' Life, the dope pusher and Bess’ former pimp, seduced Bess with "happy dust" and took her away to New York City to resume her career as a prostitute.

The language of Porgy and Bess, the Gullah dialect, is a Creole blend of English and African languages. It was born on Africa’s Slave Coast and developed in the slave communities of the coastal south, South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah people lived in small farming and fishing communities along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands, which run parallel to the coast. Because of their geographical isolation and strong community life, the Gullah have been able to preserve their African cultural heritage through their language, music, and culinary arts.

Our production was launched in January of 1993 to bring this Gershwin masterpiece to audiences in cities big and small in the United States and around the world, most of which had never seen a professional production of Porgy and Bess. Since our critically acclaimed debut in 1993, this production of Porgy and Bess has been performed live in over 1,000 shows in 17 different countries on 6 continents, including 49 of the fifty United States, reaching a total audience of over 1.5 million people.

The main strength of the Living Arts, Inc. production of Porgy and Bess lies in our exceptionally talented cast of first rate singers coupled with George Gershwin's wonderfully powerful music.

Audiences are profoundly moved by the haunting music and dramatic story filled with pathos; inevitably they leave the theater singing one wonderful tune after another - usually after extended applause and standing ovations.