There have been few more controversial shows in American theater history than "Porgy and Bess," and few more controversial adaptations than "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess."
The 2011 show, which replaced some of the opera's recitative with spoken dialogue, and made changes to the story and the music, drew scorn from very important people, including Stephen Sondheim. But it also drew high praise from some significant critics.
Local audiences will get their first chance to see what all the fuss is about when "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" comes to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts for seven shows starting Jan. 14.
The basis for the adaptation is, of course, the 1935 opera "Porgy and Bess," with music by George Gershwin, and lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. The story revolves around a disabled beggar named Porgy who tries to save Bess from a violent lover and a drug dealer.
It's full of powerful songs, including "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."
The original version has always drawn charges of racism. And it was decades after its premiere that the show was considered a "real" opera. But now the quality of the music and the characters have made "Porgy and Bess" a classic of both Broadway and opera, and the controversy has shifted to whether this new staging disrespects the source material.
Details: Jan. 14-19, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $46.50-$81.50 plus service charge and up. Information: 813-229-7827, www.strazcenter.org.
-- Marty Clear