“Summertime, and the living is easy.” You only have to hear the first few notes of this iconic song at the beginning of Porgy and Bess to put aside whatever you’ve been thinking about and glue your eyes to the stage. The intense and emotional story is one you don’t want to leave February without seeing. It’s being performed at the RMTC Cabaret Theatre by Red Mountain Theatre Company in Birmingham until Feb. 23—get your tickets and save $6 with the code BhamNow6 on price levels 1 or 2.
1. The cast of Porgy and Bess pulls you right into the story.
If I didn’t have my iPhone sitting on my lap, I would think I was on Catfish Row in 1930s Charleston. That’s where the show follows Porgy (Cecil Washington, Jr.) and his attempts to rescue Bess (Delores McKenzie) from her abusive boyfriend and seedy drug dealer. Need more context? We wrote all about it.
You’re immediately engrossed watching each scene in the intimate setting of the RMTC Cabaret Theatre. Actors rush past you and the audience leans forward into intense moments together. It’s not until intermission I remembered I was watching a performance versus living an experience.
I felt like reaching out my hand and grabbing a sandwich or joining in on one of the cheerful songs during a scene where the neighborhood is having a picnic.
However, just how you feel like jumping in during lighter scenes, the same could be said during more emotional moments. The story contains darker themes such as substance abuse and corruption. It leaves you wondering, alongside Porgy, how you can save Bess too.
- What: Porgy and Bess at Red Mountain Theatre Company
- When: Now- Feb. 23
- Where: 301 19th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203
- Use code BhamNow6 to save $6 on tickets for price levels 1 or 2
2. It’s a story that remains timeless.
I’m surprised how easily you can apply what happens in a show written over 80 years ago to the present day. Take the moment when Bess is suddenly left alone after a scary event passes. Porgy outstretches his hand like a small beam of hope. The gesture offers more than a place to stay. It’s also the beginning of his journey to help heal her.
Following the previous events, this scene not only brings out a theme of community, but also emphasizes a black American community that stays present throughout the show. One who protects each other in a time of immense division not only within the country, but between each other.
Unfortunately, the issues Porgy, Bess and the rest of the cast grapple with are still present today. However, as audience members watch the show they can take away a better understanding of these situations around them and, hopefully, take steps toward helping.
3. The music stays in your mind for days to follow
It’s difficult to picture what a “folk opera” sounds like before you hear the music. Folk and opera seem on total opposite sides of the spectrum, but you see the connection within the show.
Hearing the cast belt out gorgeous operatic melodies with soul weaved through can make you feel like you’re hearing music for the first time. Their voices are unmatched to anything you hear every day. The music comes across the stage as effortless, yet powerful, in the same moment.
Of course, the arias of “Summertime” and “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’” ring in your ears after the show. However, it’s Porgy and Bess’ duet in “Bess, You Is My Woman” that’ll give you goosebumps. During these numbers, you can practically feel the audience hold a collective breath.
Seeing the show during Black History Month is a wonderful way to celebrate black culture and support the local art that gives it a platform. Its music and story give you an important takeaway that extends far past one month.
Porgy and Bess runs at Red Mountain Theatre Company from now 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.