Don’t miss the story of Porgy and Bess at Red Mountain Theatre Company Feb. 7-23. Use code: BhamNow6 to save $6.

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porgy and bess
RMTC Rehearsal of Porgy and Bess – Cecil Washington, Jr., as Porgy and Delores McKenzie as Bess. Photo via Bham Now.

On Catfish Row in 1930s Charleston, Porgy and Bess carries us through a poverty-stricken narrative sandwiched between murder, and a story of love. Porgy and Bess premieres at the Red Mountain Theatre Company February 7 through the 23. Make sure you get your tickets to the iconic musical and save $6 with the code BhamNow6 on price levels 1 or 2.

Is it a musical? Is it opera?

Red Mountain Theatre Company rehearses songs for Porgy and Bess
Red Mountain Theatre Company rehearses songs for Porgy and Bess. Photo via Bham Now.

The answer is yes. Porgy and Bess, categorized as an American Folk Opera, is based on the 1925 book “Porgy,” and was first adapted to stage in 1935. Yep, this debate goes back farther than pineapple on pizza.

“I think over the years Gershwin’s opera has evolved into a musical which isn’t necessarily the same. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the trend has been toward productions with greater fidelity to Gershwin’s original intentions.

Cecil Washington, Jr., who portrays Porgy

Either way, chances are you’ve heard its iconic songs such as “Summertime” and “My Man’s Gone Now.” Possibly, the songs have no expiration date due to the emotion intertwined between each lyric, backed by the show’s intense story.

cecil washington as porgy
If this is just the rehearsal, wait until you see the full production. Photo via Bham Now.

“When telling a story such as Porgy and Bess, in 2020 the approach has to be adapted, to be better understood and received. I am excited to be apart of such legendary show, and for Birmingham to experience this story told through beautiful singing. It’s not often that the community has an opportunity to witness black artists in this particular genre of singing.

Cecil Washington, Jr.

A little background for those who are in the dark right now

Porgy and Bess runs Feb.7-23. Tickets. Photo courtesy of Red Mountain Theatre Company.

 Porgy and Bess follows Porgy, played in this production by Cecil Washington, Jr., a disabled black street-beggar living in a poor area of Charleston.

Then enter Bess, a woman who suffers from drug addiction and who Porgy attempts to save from the disaster of the horrible influences in her life. What happens next? You’ll just have to buy tickets and see for yourself.

The most recent Broadway production is condensed from the original nearly four-hour-long show to fit traditional run-times of a musical. The new revival even garnered a Tony!

How is RMTC telling the story?

Porgy and Bess is definitely not your average love story, but the same emotions are felt in every scene. Photo via Bham Now.

Although the strong themes and messages carry themselves through 85 years of adaptations, each time the story is told is a little different. An actor wouldn’t mimic the same performance from 60 years ago, because audiences don’t perceive the work the same way.

I can’t nor will I ever be able to play a role as another artist has, simply beacuse we all have a different way of telling the story. The ones before you have laid out the blueprint so to speak, but for me it all comes down to being honest about whats being said, or sung.

Cecil Washington, Jr.
Cecil Washington Jr.
Cecil is no stranger to the stage. He’s starred in productions such as The Color Purple and Dreamgirls. Photo courtesy of Cecil Washington, Jr.

If you’ve seen the show before, or at least know the story of Porgy and Bess, you might expect to experience the same emotions from this performance. However, Cecil remarks that each time you see or experience a piece of art, you view it in a totally new way. That’s the approach he aims to take with this production. experience

How do you set yourself back nearly a century to take on an incredible role where the Great Depression rages in the background? With high emotions specific to the time, Cecil plans to take a step back and see what parallels he can draw from his life to Porgy’s.

“One of the strategies of how I plan to play Porgy is to take the proverbial ‘walk in someone elses shoes’ analogy and see what connects me with the character. What have I experienced in my life that is on the same plane as Porgy?”

Cecil Washington, Jr.

What can audiences expect from Porgy and Bess?

porgy and bess
Although the show is set decades before today, don’t take the themes with a grain of salt. The messages within the show are still applicable today. Photo via Bham Now.

A fantastic performance to start, but maybe also a new perspective. Porgy and Bess isn’t a show you’ll walk into and leave without an opinion deeper than the Grand Canyon. It’s important to come with a fresh perspective and an open mind.

“For those who are coming with fresh ears I hope and believe this show will change the way you view theatre in Birmingham, AL in the best way possible. I implore the audiences to come ready to receive the power of this piece delivered by artists who have a true love and respect for simply telling the story the way it is intended.”

Cecil Washington, Jr.

Don’t look at the messages in the story as something that happened in the past, but rather take them and apply them to today. Although the story stretches back decades, there’s still something to learn when you listen.

As an actor, Cecil more than anyone understands how a single performance can change perspectives and enact change. That’s partly why he returns to the Birmingham stage each year.

“That is one of the main reasons I come to my hometown once a year to help, in my way, continue to push evolution and more acceptance. Art can change lives in the most beautiful way; if you allow it”

Cecil Washington, Jr.

Porgy and Bess runs at Red Mountain Theatre Company from February 7 through the 23.

Save $6 on any performance of price level 1 or 2 only with code BhamNow6. Price Level 1 or 2 only. The code cannot be used retroactively or combined with other offers.  Limited quantities are available.

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