The opera’s first national tour played a role in desegregating the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. The original Porgy, Todd Duncan, refused to go on stage unless all seats were open to all colors for all performances. That will no doubt be remembered when the tour hits Washington before Christmas.
“We stand on the shoulders of all the people who have been part of the history of this work. There’s nothing better than feeling connected,” says Paulus. “There is this history. And rather than it feeling like a burden, you rise on top of it.”
Stampley hopes this production will make “Porgy and Bess” accessible to a younger audience. “You still get the best of both worlds. You still get a great story and you get to hear Gershwin. Anytime you get to hear Gershwin in your life, it’s a good thing.”
Like Stampley, the new Bess has been waiting a long time to make the role her own. She too was an understudy on Broadway for McDonald and can’t wait to show the country her impressive voice and acting chops.
“I think I have always had a very large personality. It’s very lucky for me that I’m getting this opportunity to bring my art to a very big stage,” says Moran, a California native. Plus, she calls her Porgy a “walking, talking greatness machine of kindness.”
The tour has given costume designer Emilio Sosa a chance to tweak the outfits that earned him a Tony nomination. “I like to keep it fresh and interesting,” says the designer, who has created costumes from everyone from Celine Dion to Alvin Ailey dancers.
He plans to stop by the tour in San Francisco, Washington and Dallas. “I call them drive-bys. They might be called fly-bys for this tour,” he says with a laugh. “I like to just drive by and live it — see how things are.”
One member of the company never actually got to see the “Porgy and Bess” revival on Broadway and she has a very good reason. Danielle Lee Greaves, who plays Mariah, was busy acting in the revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that was on simultaneously.
The New Yorker says she is looking forward to hitting the road, having toured with “Rent” and “The Lion King.” She’s never been to Las Vegas or San Francisco and is excited to return to Seattle and Los Angeles.
A self-described “pro-packer,” Greaves offers these tips from a theater pro: Put everything in plastic baggies, use a duffle bag instead of a suitcase and roll everything up: “You can’t imagine how much you can get into a suitcase when you roll it,” she says.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits