Porgy and Bess: Album Reviews

Last week, PS Classics released a pair of Gershwin recordings, each of which have received positive reviews. The first was a two-disc set of the 2012 Broadway revival cast recording of Porgy and Bess. The creative team includes Dorothy and DuBose Heyward (book), Suzan-Lori Parks (book adaptation), Ira Gershwin (lyrics), George Gershwin (music), Diedre Murray (musical adaptation), Christopher Jahnke and William David Brohn (orchestration), and Constantine Kitsopoulos (conductor). The cast includes Audra McDonald (Bess), David Alan Grier (Sporting Life), Norm Lewis (Porgy), Phillip Boykin (Crown), and Nikki Renée Daniels (Clara).

Andy Propst (Theater Mania): Listeners who have seen Diane Paulus’ production … will notice that the album boasts a richer and fuller orchestral sound almost as soon as the overture has begun. The CD uses an expanded string section, featuring seven violinists (as compared to the three used in the pit), and throughout the recording, the enhanced strings provide a beautiful (and frequently delicate) balance to the brash brass sections for Gershwin’s rich fusion of musical theater traditions, opera, and traditional spirituals. Then there are the show’s stars, who are all in exceptional voice on the recording. … The slip-cased set comes with a richly illustrated booklet, which contains both synopsis and lyrics, along with a terrific essay by arts journalist Patrick Pacheco. Moreover, producer Tommy Krasker has carefully crafted the album with just enough dialogue to make the entirety an apt recreation of the production.

Joe Stead (Chicago Stage Style): The score has never sounded more enticing. …. The 2012 Broadway cast makes the words as crisp and essential as the music. This CD consequently feels much more like a musical drama, albeit gorgeously sung, than some of the more operatic treatments available. The sound of the new Porgy recording, with gorgeous orchestrations by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, is clear as a bell and makes a strong case for one of the true landmarks of the American musical. … Gershwin’s lush score, adapted here by Diedre L. Murray, sounds fresh and vital under Conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos’ baton. And the two-disc release is generously accompanied by the requisite full-color booklet featuring photos, synopsis, lyrics, and production notes. This superlative recording is another plume in the already beauteous cap of PS Classics. At the risk of hyperbole, I predict Porgy and Bess will be at the top of this year’s crop of musical theatre recordings.

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