Red Mountain Theatre Company presented the musical “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” this month in honor of Black History Month. According to Red Mountain Theatre Company, this show is an “American Folk Opera” that combines ragtime, jazz, classical and folk genres into a musical full of love, sadness and fear. The show ran from Feb. 7 – 23.
“Porgy and Bess” is based on DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s play “Porgy,” and was George Gershwin’s final work for the musical stage. The musical tells the story of Porgy, a lonely man born disabled, and Bess, a woman who struggles with addiction and a toxic relationship. Both come together after a tragedy and fall in love, and the musical shows the ups and downs of the small country town.
Cecil Washington, a graduate from Alabama State University, played Porgy. Washington has done both theatre and television work. Delores McKenzie played Bess and has done several theatre shows including “Ragtime,” “The King and I,” “The Wiz” and “Dreamgirls.” After the show, the cast returned to the stage and talked to some people about the musical and their characters. McKenzie described what it was like to portray someone with drug addiction.
“I’ve never used drugs, so it was a big challenge for me as an actress to portray the struggle it takes to go back and forth with that,” McKenzie said. “It was a process, but I had the support and the tools I needed to be able to succeed.”
Some musical numbers include “Summertime,” a great opening song that sets the scene for the musical; “My Man’s Gone Now,” an operatic and dramatic number sung by a widow; “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” a true love song of Porgy and Bess; and “I’m on My Way.”
Normally, this show would have a full orchestra, but Red Mountain Theatre Company narrowed the music down to two pianos, which were on both sides of the three-quarter thrust stage.
Samford musical theatre major Theo Edwards-Butler made her Red Mountain Theatre Company debut as Clara in “Porgy and Bess.”
Her bio reads, “She is beyond grateful for this opportunity and would like to thank her support system for always encouraging and believing.”
Denise Gregory, the assistant provost for Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives attended the show and offered students the opportunity to attend the show for free. Gregory said she enjoyed the show as well as supporting Edwards-Butler.
“It was an awesome show tonight,” Gregory said, “It’s for our Black History Month program in the Office of Diversity and we are just excited to have everyone here to see it.”
Red Mountain Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization that has won Tony Awards and works to provide unique and high-quality professional theatre in Birmingham.
“Our mission is to create powerful theatre experiences that enrich, educate, and engage audiences – nourishing the human spirit, fostering valuable life skills, and cultivating a deeper sense of community,” Red Mountain Theatre Company’s website stated.