The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (2014)

17 July – 23 August

By George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin
Book Adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks Musical Score Adapted by Diedre L. Murray

Celebrated as a landmark piece of American theatre, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess contains a collection of favourites including ‘I Got Plenty of Nothing’, ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Loves You Porgy’ and the poignantly beautiful ‘Summertime’, an icon of the Great American Songbook. Artistic Director, Timothy Sheader, created a highly emotional, dramatic piece which was 'finely nuanced and exquisitely sung' (Guardian). Nicola Hughes played Bess, and was joined by three American actors, Rufus Bonds Jr, Phillip Boykin and Cedric Neal in the three male leads. Rufus Bonds Jr, Phillip Boykin and Cedric Neal appeared with the permission of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.

The cast

Creative team


Daily Telegraph

"ELECTRIFYING...thrilling and deeply moving; you are left in no doubt that you are watching a great and courageous piece of musical theatre. Phillip Boykin is absolutely terrifying as Crown...while Cedric Neal combines feline grace with manipulative menace. Rufus Bonds Jr as Porgy brings a mixture of courage, humility and raw pain to the stage. Nicola Hughes is absolutely outstanding as Bess...she an extraordinarily fine voice and an arresting sensuality It's a knockout show and by the end has achieved a depth of emotion that is OVERWHELMING IN ITS DRAMATIC INTENSITY


"Finely nuanced and EXQUISITELY SUNG, the lullabys, laments and spirituals shiver in the air like a series of reproaches to a world of hardship and rough justice. Nicola Hughes's mesmerising Bess...twirls like a dangerous, dancing flame; Sharon D Clarke is powerfully defiant as Mariah, Golda Rosheuvel finds both the pain and generosity as the widowed Serena, and Jade Ewen brings a moving simplicity to Clara."

Evening Standard

"The musical has long been a highlight of each season at the Open Air Theatre and this year serves up another treat with Timothy Sheader's SINUOUS and SOPHISTICATED production. Katrina Lindsay’s huge crushed bronze rumpled of an abstract sculpture set…chimes perfectly with Sheader’s slow-burn reading"

Sunday Times

"Nicola Hughes is the searing focus of Timothy Sheader’s stirring take on the Gershwin classic.. Liam Steel’s INSPIRED MOVMENT has the ensemble sloping, sliding and slapping like human percussion”


“The hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention so repeatedly in Timothy Sheader’s GLORIOUSLY SUNG production that they are quite worn out by the end. Rufus Bonds Jr brings a heartbreaking dignity to the crippled Porgy. Cedric Neal is phenomenally snaky and insinuating as the preening drug-pusher – the build on ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ electrifying in its demonic cheek.”

Daily Mail

“A PITCH-PERFECT SUMMER'S EVENING From the moment Jade Ewen sang the opening notes of the first song, Summertime, my neck was tingling. The triumph in Timothy Sheader’s production is in the emotion it stirs. This is down to an excellent lead duo of Nicola Hughes as drug-taking temptress Bess and Rufus Bonds as her admirer, the crippled Porgy. Golda Rosheuvel is a revelation as Serena"


"A vibrant new production. (Nicola) Hughes is an uninhibited powerhouse as Bess. Gershwin's score is knockout, the singing's great and Regent's Park looks as though is has A SURE FIRE HIT."

Sunday Express

"Simon Lee, conducting the largest orchestra in the Open Air Theatre's history, gives a splendid rendition of the score. Rufus Bonds Jr is a MAGNIFICENTLY LIFE-ENHANCING Porgy. Even the inevitable summer rain could not dampen the energy of the cast or the enthusiasm of the audience"


"How stirring to hear Porgy and Bess at the Open Air Theatre. Woe and rage and desire ring out in Timothy Sheader's marvellously sung, sparely staged production"

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