Pimp my Porgy
George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, one of America’s most recognizable operas and a local point of pride — given that Gershwin wrote much of the score during a 1933 stay at Folly Beach — is being given a makeover. Apparently, famed British stage director Sir Trevor Nunn is reworking the four-hour opera into a two-and-a-half hour stage musical. While opera purists may cringe at the thought of such tinkering, Nunn believes he can make it happen without pissing off too many hardcore fans. Nunn’s credits include some of the most successful theatrical ventures of our time — Cats, Les Miserables, Starlight Express, and Sunset Boulevard, for instance — and he’s been trying to draw attention to Porgy and Bess ever since he directed a much-remembered production in 1986 at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Porgy and Bess tells the story of a crippled black man, Porgy, as he tries to save his love Bess from the clutches of Crown, her pimp, a charismatic drug dealer named Sportin’ Life, and, ultimately, a hurricane. The story’s set during the 1930s in a fictitious downtown Charleston ghetto called Catfish Row — thought to have been based on a similar area that once existed in the area now recognized as tony Rainbow Row on East Bay Street. In Nunn’s musical version, Porgy and Bess standards, like “Summertime,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” will remain, but will be adapted by a composer where needed. Nunn explains that there have been a few structural changes and the expansion of spoken scenes for the musical, but all the melodic content will remain the same. The musical is set open in London in November. There are already plans to bring the show to Broadway sometime during the 2007-08 season, but no official dates have been set. The best part? It won’t be four hours long. Nunn hopes that the different format and the shorter, attention-deficit-friendly length will bring the Gershwins’ story to a whole new audience. ­—Steven Zimmerman