Reviews

Below is a sampling of reviews for Porgy and Bess. For a full press packet please send your request to info@livingartsnyc.com

High Standards
The Advertiser
Sydney, Australia
July 18, 2006
By Ewart Shaw

The livin’ is easy but life is cheap in Catfish Row. The story of the crippled Porgy and his love for the weak-willed Bess is given a musically compelling production that sprawls across the Festival Theatre stage. Download review



Porgy’s Got Plenty for Me
Sunday Mail
Adelaide, Australia
July 16, 2006
By Matt Byrne

Watching Porgy and Bess is like going to gospel church. George and Ira Gershwin wrote an immortal opera that would ensure work for African American productions for decades to come. Download review



Rich Melody Rises from the Squalor
The Australian
Australian National Publication
July 14, 2006
By Graham Strahle


So great are its melodic riches that Porgy and Bess can easily become a static, show-tune extravaganza with scant character or story development.

But Peter Klein’s Living Arts production, with an African American cast, benefits from carefully researched insights into George Gershwin’s opera about the trials of life among the inhabitants of Catfish Row. Download review



"Porgy and Bess" Gets to Heart of the Matter
Post-Dispatch
St. Louis, Missouri
April 19, 2005
By Judith Newmark

"Bess, You Is My Woman Now" may not be the most familiar number in "Porgy and Bess." After all, the Gershwin score also includes "I Got Plenty of Nuttin'," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and the haunting "Summertime. Read more



A Big Week at Memorial Auditorium
Chattanooga, TN
posted March 8, 2005
by Bart Whiteman


...it’s nice to report that Memorial had a heck of a week recently with the one-two punch of the opera Porgy and Bess and the musical revue Smokey Joe’s Café. February being Black History month, I suppose there was a call to have these two shows so close together, but they actually couldn’t have been more different, as was the response they elicited from their Chattanooga audiences. Read more



Leads make “Porgy and Bess"
Times Union - Albany, New York
Sunday, October 19, 2003
By Joseph Dalton

SCHENECTADY - Whether George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” is the Great American Opera is a debate that will never be settled. But one could hardly ask for a more persuasive performance than what was seen... Read more



Three Hours of Compelling Intensity - Porgy and Bess - Symphony Hall
Birmingham Post
Birmingham, United Kingdom
July 7, 2003
By Terry Grimley


Three Hours of Compelling Intensity - Porgy and Bess - Symphony Hall
Despite the familiarity of numbers like Summertime and It Ain’t Necessarily So, George Gershwin’s only opera has taken a long time to find its true place. Unsuccessful in his lifetime, it presented a practical and cultural challenge in its combination of a full-blown idiom and a virtually all-black-cast. Yet this ten year old-touring production... Read more



Traveling Porgy Is Packed With Pleasures
The Washington Post
Washington, DC
June 14, 2002
By Joseph McLellan


For one night only, Wednesday at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, a traveling company presented a powerful production of Porgy and Bess with a cast deeply experienced in this great American opera. The production was given as a “Kay Shouse Great performance,” honoring... Read more



All Facets of “Porgy” Sparkle
Star-Telegram
Fort Worth, TX
March 16, 2002
By Wayne Gay


Gershwin’s masterpiece Porgy and Bess continues a brief run at Bass Performance Hall in a production that emphasizes virtuoso singing and intense acting. Fort Worth - George Gershwin’s masterpiece Porgy and Bess took the stage Thursday night at Bass Performance Hall in a lean but colorful touring production... Read more



Embassy of the United States of America
Cairo, Egypt
May 17, 2000


Dear Peter,

I would like to thank you and the Living Arts Company once again for the extraordinary performance of Porgy and Bess in Cairo, April 12-14. People here are still raving about the show. I think that the impact on the students of Dr. Dalya Shayal, which is forwarded [sic] to you earlier, was only the tip of the iceberg. Download review



A Touring Gershwin Production Exhilarates
The London Times
London, United Kingdom
November 6, 1997
By John Allison

As Gershwin’s opera closes with Porgy bidding farewell to the residents of Catfish Row, no one knowing how long his journey will take, you feel you can really believe these performers. Download review





"Porgy and Bess" Gets to Heart of the Matter
Post-Dispatch
St. Louis, Missouri
April 19, 2005
By Judith Newmark

"Bess, You Is My Woman Now" may not be the most familiar number in "Porgy and Bess." After all, the Gershwin score also includes "I Got Plenty of Nuttin'," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and the haunting "Summertime."

But in the production of "Porgy and Bess" performed on Sunday night at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, that soaring love duet anchored the whole production - musically, dramatically and emotionally.

Like "Romeo and Juliet," "Porgy and Bess" tells a tragic story of lovers who don't belong together. If they didn't know that for themselves, their neighbors on Charleston's Catfish Row are only too eager to explain it to them.

Porgy (Samuel Stevenson), a crippled beggar with enough luck and skill to augment his meager income shooting dice, is a warm-hearted, virtuous man. Everyone on Catfish Row thinks he's much too good for the hard-living, hard-drinking Bess (Lisa Lockhart). Besides, Bess belongs to a tough character, Crown (Stephen B. Finch), who won't even deign to consider Porgy a "real" man.

But in their key duet, Stevenson and Lockhart bare their characters' troubled souls. Porgy, starved for love, will give Bess everything that really matters; Bess, starved for respect and kindness, will give him both her virgin heart and her more experienced body. The duet, eloquent and weirdly optimistic, seals their bond like a wedding.

It does so not only because of the singers' affecting voices but because of the way that they move together. Bess sinks to her knees - Porgy's level - as he wraps his arms around her protectively. Singing of love to each other, they seem to blossom from the earth like a pair of entwined flowers. The duet demonstrates the power of this production at its best.

Composer George Gershwin based "Porgy and Bess" on a novel by DuBose Heyward, with the lyrics and script written by Heyward; his wife, Dorothy; and Gershwin's brother Ira. This production boasts strong individual performances.

Those come not only from Lockhart and Stevenson but from Finch, from Stephanie Beadle as Catfish Row's spiritual matriarch and from Angela Owens as a young mother. Her arresting delivery of "Summertime," sets the bar very high, both because of her and the small orchestra (nearly all St. Louis musicians) led by conductor John LoPiccolo. Back to top



A Big Week at Memorial Auditorium
Chattanooga, TN
posted March 8, 2005
by Bart Whiteman


...it's nice to report that Memorial had a heck of a week recently with the one-two punch of the opera Porgy and Bess and the musical revue Smokey Joe’s Café. February being Black History month, I suppose there was a call to have these two shows so close together, but they actually couldn’t have been more different, as was the response they elicited from their Chattanooga audiences.

Porgy and Bess was part of the Patten Performances series, which has aimed very high this year in terms of the level of shows it has presented all season long. Porgy and Bess, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, and based on the novel by DuBose Heyward, is considered by many people to be America’s greatest opera, and it produced one of the most covered American songs of all time (just ask Janis Joplin and American Idol’s Fantasia among others) – “Summertime.” Until I saw the show, I never realized that the lyrics – “hush little baby, don’t you cry” – don’t lie. The song was really written as a lullaby, but it also sets the mood and climate perfectly for the story’s locale, Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina.

It was performed by a seasoned veteran cast headed by Samuel Stevenson and Jerris Cates in the two title roles. The plot involves the struggle of Bess trying to decide between the men in her life, the macho Crown, the worldly Sportin’ Life, or the good and true Porgy. The latter is crippled and can’t walk. The music was at the level that only the Gershwins can provide.

The combination of classic story, great music, downbeat environment, and Depression-era plot was sheer doom. The turnout on a sunny afternoon was low, but the people who missed it missed what has to be one of the most compelling of all final opera moments – on a par with Tosca going over the wall – as Porgy promises to drag himself on his rolling palette all the way to New York City to find his gal and bring her home. Somehow, I had the feeling he was going to make it. You just don’t see that kind of love around much any more. The funny thing is the final moment was not about death and destruction, as is often the case in opera. It was about hope. Back to top



Leads make “Porgy and Bess"
Times Union
Albany, New York
October 19, 2003
By Joseph Dalton


SCHENECTADY - Whether George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” is the Great American Opera is a debate that will never be settled. But one could hardly ask for a more persuasive performance than what was seen at proctor’s Theater Saturday afternoon.

This touring production has been on and off the road for some 10 years, and it shows only in the best ways. The performances were confident and secure with no signs of it being just another retread. The set and costumes seemed as good as new.

Best of all were the leads. As Bess, soprano, Jerris Cates used her beautiful voice to give full attention to the part’s operatic turns. But she also made it seem a full theatrical role, not just a vocal part.

Mark Anthony Hall was an animated and persuasive Porgy. The only criticism is that he was rather hearty and stout to be playing the crippled Porgy, who at one point is called “a piece of a man.”

Every bit a man was the burly Stephen Finch who plays a menacing Crown. He was one of several from the secondary cast who were utterly believable in their roles. Stephanie Beadle, as the pipe smoking, mojo-working Maria, was a kind of emotional barometer throughout the show. And Ronn K. Smith as Sportin’ Life made the most of his flashy character, especially in “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” a song which, in spite of its age, felt remarkably irreverent in its questioning of religious maxims.

Though there are several terrific hits from this show, dramatic continuity was never lost when numbers like “I Got Plenty of Nuttin,” or “Bess, You is My Women Now” appeared. They seemed a natural part of Gershwin’s radiant score. The second scene of Act II particularly shown as a musical accomplishment, seamlessly integrating references to hymn tunes, dance hall numbers, a love ballad and classical counterpoint.

Perhaps above all, this “Porgy and Bess” succeeded on an emotional level in Porgy’s anguished solitude at the end. The piece also felt relevant to our times because Bess’ pivotal decision to leave her community, her lover and a baby was based on the addictive lure of drugs.

Proctor’s printed program and a pre-performance announcement made a point of saying that the opera is performed in the Gullah language. Back to top



Three Hours of Compelling Intensity - Porgy and Bess - Symphony Hall
Birmingham Post
Birmingham, United Kingdom
July 7, 2003
By Terry Grimley

Despite the familiarity of numbers like Summertime and It Ain’t Necessarily So, George Gershwin’s only opera has taken a long time to find its true place.

Unsuccessful in his lifetime, it presented a practical and cultural challenge in its combination of a full-blown idiom and a virtually all-black-cast. Yet this ten year old-touring production from New York drew a full house in a city where a revamped version of Girl Crazy flopped a few years ago.

The 1980 Glyndeboure production, televised and recorded on CD, was a revelation for many of us.

Two factors, however, made this a compelling near three hours. One was the sheer dramatic intensity of Gershwin’s score (how did a Tin Pan Alley songplugger compose with such sweep and sophistication?), the other the quality of the voices.

There was wonderful singing from Samuel Clark Stevenson and Elizabeth Graham in the title roles, and Stephanie Beadle in the gospel-focused role of Serena.

In the spirit of the Devil having the best tunes, Mark Anthony Hall was an electrifying Crown and Duane A. Moody a satisfyingly oily Sportin’ Life.

It’s amazing to reflect that it took 50 years for America’s greatest opera to be staged at the Metropolitan opera. Tonight you can hear this production in Llandudno. Back to top



Traveling Porgy Is Packed With Pleasures
The Washington Post
Washington, DC
June 14, 2002
By Joseph McLellan


For one night only, Wednesday at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, a traveling company presented a powerful production of Porgy and Bess with a cast deeply experienced in this great American opera. The production was given as a “Kay Shouse Great performance,” honoring the birthday of Wolf Trap’s founder, who died in 1994.

This “Porgy and Bess”: was designed for easy transportation with painted backdrops behind a set of structures representing Catfish Row, and text was unobtrusively streamlined, omitting the piano music at the beginning and some dialog of mainly folkloric interest. But all of the opera’s well-beloved melodies were included, and the plot unfolded with clarity and dramatic impact. The music, under the direction of Stefan Kozinski, caught well the special style of this work, poised between jazz and classicism.

The cast was well-chosen, from Brian Gibson an Elizabeth Graham, outstanding in their title roles, down to Derek Foxx, who dies early in the role of Robbins but came back as the Crabman and brought the tiny part vividly to life. Particularly noteworthy to the large cast were Anne Fridal, who sang beautifully as Serena, Stephen B. Finch, superbly loutish and menacing as Crown, and Malaika Sims and Danrell Williams, deeply appealing in the roles of Clara and Jake. In the role of Sportin’ Life, John LeSane sketched a pimp and drug dealer more sinister and less superficially smooth and ingratiating then previous interpreters of the character. Back to top



ll Facets of “Porgy” Sparkle
Star-Telegram
Fort Worth, TX
March 16, 2002
By Wayne Gay


Gershwin’s masterpiece Porgy and Bess continues a brief run at Bass Performance Hall in a production that emphasizes virtuoso singing and intense acting.

Fort Worth - George Gershwin’s masterpiece Porgy and Bess took the stage Thursday night at Bass Performance Hall in a lean but colorful touring production.

The most intense performance came, appropriately, from Samuel Stevenson as Porgy. Stevenson’s dark vocal quality combined with broad, energetic acting to bring Porgy to life as a very real, loving, trusting human being.

Soprano Elizabeth Graham, who owns the rare honor of both directing the production and singing he role of Bess, was equal to Stevenson in her devotion to bringing her equally complex character to life. Like Stevenson, she projected grand gestures appropriate to a fairly large auditorium, conveying arrogance in the first scene followed by humility and love as she transformed and took on new layers of character.

The singers in the comprimario roles likewise made the most of their parts. Stephanie Beadle’s rendition of My Man’s Gone Now was arguably the highest of many high points in the evening, Stephen B. Finch added unexpected dimension to the role of Crown, and Kim Sylvain as Maria made a memorable vocal and dramatic showpiece out of the usually omitted number Struttin’ Style.

Duane A. Moody’s rendition of Sportin’ Life was elegant and characterized by richly varied vocal shadings: One could easily understand the appeal of this Sportin’ Life to the residents of Catfish Row. Malaika Sims as Clara gets the most stunning aria in the show, Summertime, and makes the most of it.

The orchestra in this highly portable production produces a lean sound that reminds that, though the piece really is a grand opera, it owes much to the Broadway stage; conductor Zoltann Papp’s brisk reading of the score under-linked the Broadway connection.

Cuts from Gershwin’s mammoth score are inevitable, and while a few of the audience member’s favorite scenes were left out, the choices were on the whole wisely made, with no damage done to the underlying genius of American culture. Back to top