Penn Hills native starring in ‘Porgy and Bess’ at Benedum

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David Hughey is excited to be playing the role of Jake in the newly re-imagined version of “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.” He is even more excited to be performing the role at the Benedum Center.

“I’m so glad to be home in Pittsburgh,” said Hughey who currently lives in New York City but grew up in Penn Hills. His family currently lives in Penn Hills. “Audiences can expect a captivating experience. In other cities, audiences have been on the edge of their seats. They are beautiful voices. There are opera singers and musical theater singers in this production and audiences are going to have a really good time.”

“The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” tells the story of the residents of Charleston’s fictional Catfish Row. Those residents include beautiful Bess who is trying to escape her checked past, Jake a married fisherman, Crown a drug dealer and Porgy a crippled man that is loved by the townspeople and rescues Bess from her demons and shows her real love.

Porgy and Bess National Tour

SCENE FROM PORGY AND BESS

Usually known as an opera, this rendition of “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” features a 23-piece orchestra, colorful costumes and never-before-seen choreography. Also director Diane Paulus required that every actor in the show come to rehearsals with a complete character back story–even the two White policemen in the production–that immediately brought the cast together and created a sense of community to the production.

“A lot of spoken dialogue has been put into this piece and the show flows a different way. The actors are doing the singing and the acting. This makes the piece more accessible and tangible and it brings people into the story quicker and takes away the barrier that sometimes comes with opera music,” said Hughey who performed in the Broadway production of “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, understudying the role of Sportin’ Life, which was portrayed by actor and David Allen Grier. In addition, Hughey worked as a swing in the production meaning that he had the pleasure of playing numerous characters including Jake.

The Broadway production was not Hughey’s first foray into “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.”

“When I was just out of college I was happy to be working and I played a character named Jim that isn’t in this production,” said Hughey who holds a bachelor of music from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and a masters of music from the Manhattan School of Music. “But for Jake, I read the book to see how the people really acted and I looked at productions of the movie so I could understand how a fisherman would handle his different nets.”

With all of the years that Hughey has performed “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess,” one may think he would tire of it. That is not the case.

“I keep coming back to it because the community and the music of the show. The sense of community is like a family because you run into the same people all of the time. It’s about African-Americans and it may sometimes be overlooked as a masterpiece,” Hughey said. “Porgy and Bess is quite important to African-American history. So many Black artists and singers used ‘Porgy and Bess’ as a platform to get where they wanted to be.”

The 1936 production introduced audiences to one of the first major Black Broadway companies and it desegregated the National Theater in Washington after cast protests.

Hughey is booked with the production through July. Afterwards he would like to pursue more television and film projects. He has done some work on “Gossip Girl,” “Law & Order.” His beautiful voice was featured on the “12 Years A Slave” soundtrack.

“This is a very hard industry to be in,” Hughey said. “It’s hard when you’re not successful and when you’re becoming successful. There’s an aspect of loneliness, disappointment and rejection that you go through. You have to know that you know that you know that this is what you were meant to do.”

 

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