The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess - 29 July 2014 Review

This show had plenty o’ potential but seemed to generate plenty o’ nuttin.

I bloomin love Gershwin! I really do! Plus I have literally (YES literally) been singing “Summertime” since the first hint of light and warmth on my skin back in April. Coincidentally I also love (lovelovelove) the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the epitome of Summer time in cultural London. So on hearing that Gershwin’s classic musical, Porgy and Bess, was to grace the outdoor stage of dreams I was extremely excited and the pairing of two of my favourite things. After the show I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t love it…maybe my expectations were too high?!

One of the most exciting parts of seeing a show at the Open Air is the moment you walk into the amphitheatre and see what the design team have done with the set. Here I was greeted with a beautiful copper construction by Katrina Lindsay that perfectly evoked seaside cliffs and reflected the sunset in the most magnificent way – lovely! It is just a shame that the rest of the production wasn’t as perfectly captured. The show pretty much just used the set as a backdrop, which was disappointing.

For me the production was just a touch uninspiring and unimaginative. It just sort of happened in front of me, with little conviction. Aside from an at times dazzling show from Nicola Hughes as Bess, I felt that the performance was rather insular, which was perhaps an issue with it's bland staging. I know the text and all of the songs in this show very well, but even I didn't feel involved.

I found the choreography a touch awkward at times, especially when the cast were performing some kind of interpretive chair dance…but the less said about that the better.

There is no denying that the music of George and Ira Gershwin is fabulous and it this production it was looking very promising in the initial warbling of “Summertime” but classic numbers such as “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’” and “It Ain’t Necessarily so” were throwaway. The biggest crime against the Gershwin’s was the slap dash treatment of “My Man’s Gone Now,” a song that is intended to chill the listener to the core. Here is was rushed and unfeeling. I felt somewhat put out.

You know a production isn’t living up to the standards you expect when your mind starts wandering as to wear the actor playing Sportin’ Life got his fabulous yellow suit (loved it, very on trend!) This show had plenty o’ potential but seemed to generate plenty o’ nuttin. That said, it is worth a visit for the Open Air experience if you haven’t already been. Plus you get to gaze on Lindsay’s sculpture in various states of sun!

Porgy and Bess Review 2014
29 July 2014, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre