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Friday, 26 May 2017 13:41

Soulpepper Presents “Porgy and Bess in Concert”

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Canadian Treasure Jackie Richardson Heads Cast of

Leading Jazz, Blues and Gospel Singers and Musicians

Seven performances only  

Beginning This Saturday, May 27th  

By Dennis Kucherawy  

Since she was a young girl, Canada’s beloved jazz/blues diva Jackie Richardson has listened to the Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess.”  Ironically, she has never seen it.  Now, she will perform in a concert of the music she has loved these many years.



“I was especially drawn to `I Loves You Porgy,’” she recalls, a song that she will perform in Soulpepper’s concert. 

“These are pieces from black performing arts history people would like to experience,” she says.  “`Porgy and Bess’” was a huge showcase for black performers when there wasn’t a lot going on.  It was a springboard.  It’s interesting to see a play about the black community that was written from observation.  Unlike a lot of things written from observation, it comes closer than most to capturing the soul of a community from a point of view outside.”

(The opera was composed by George Gershwin.  The libretto was co-written by DuBose Heyward and Georges brother, Ira.  They adapted it from Heyward’s 1925 novel “Porgy” and his subsequent play of the same name.)

“Porgy and Bess in Concert” is Soulpepper’s latest in its series of original works that the theatre call “docu-musical” events created by “mixing music (song), narrative and visual design.  Part of Soulpepper’s 20th anniversary season, these events have included two “Taking the A Train” concerts: “Downtown Manhattan – The Melting Pot” and “Uptown Manhattan – Harlem.”  Another was “True North: A Concert of Canada,” that Soulpepper will present during its New York residency this July along with “Melting Pot” and “The Secret Chord:  A Tribute to Leonard Cohen.”

Like these concerts, “Porgy and Bess” is an overview, that will feature songs from the opera with narration that conveys the works’ history and additional songs of the era that create a context for Gershwin’s compositions, premiered in 1934. For example, the classic, “Summertime” (that will be sung by Neema Bickersteth) is preceded by two songs. Jackie Richardson will sing the spiritual folk song “All My Trials,” another lullaby inspired by one from the Bahamas.  That is followed by the Negro spiritual “Motherless Child” (performed by Alana Bridgewater.)

Two Duke Ellington songs from the 1930s are also featured in the concert: “Sophisticated Lady” sung by Neema Bickerstein and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

Jackie Richardson said in researching the show, music director George Koller has made various recordings of songs from “Porgy and

“Porgy and Bess in Concert” available to the performers.  They include an album of songs from the opera sung by Diahann Carroll and performances from two of her favorites, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Nina Simone, among others.

And she’s loving it: “To challenge yourself to sing such legendary music, it’s a joy!”


Richard Ouzounian -               Adaptor

Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu -          Director

George Koller –                      Music Director


Troy Adams, Thom Allison, Neema Bickersteth, Alana Bridgewater, Jackie Richardson, Walter Borden (Narrator)


Colleen Allen –     Reeds, Horns

Attila Fias - Piano

George Koller -     Bass

Lowell Whitty -     Drums

Performances are:

Sat., May 27th (1:30 and 7:30 p.m.)

Tues. May 30th (7:30 p.m.)

Thurs. June 1st (7:30 p.m.)

Friday, June 2nd (7:30 p.m.)

Sat. June 3rd (1:30 p.m.)

Friday, June 9th (7:30 p.m.)


Soulpepper is located in the Distillery District’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto.

Visit its box office or www.soulpepper.ca, or call 416-866-8666.

Tickets for productions range from $32 to $96.  $25 rush tickets when available. $20 tickets are available for arts workers.

Further deals for 18 to 30-year-olds are available. at www.soulpepper.ca/stageplay.

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Friday, 26 May 2017 13:51
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