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Pinkins Changes, Peters & Hughes in Porgy & Bess

By • West End
Broadway star Tonya Pinkins (pictured) will recreate her acclaimed title performance in the UK premiere of Caroline, or Change at the National Theatre. Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s award-winning musical joins the rep in the NT Lyttelton on 19 October 2006 (previews from 10 October).

In Louisiana in 1963 in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, Caroline Thibodeaux, a black maid to a southern Jewish family, is struggling to keep afloat both emotionally and economically, while the young son of her employer tries to make sense of the world following the death of his mother.

In 2004, Pinkins was nominated for the Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for Caroline, or Change, the third time she’d been in the running for the prize. She was also a contender in 1997 for Play On! and for Jelly’s Last Jam in 1992, when she won. Pinkins’ other Broadway credits include Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Merrily We Roll Along and Michael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party.

At the National, Pinkins is joined in the Caroline, or Change cast by Valda Aviks, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Angela M Caesar, Anna Francolini, Richard Henders, Ian Lavender, Joy Malcolm, Hilton McRae, Malinda Parris, Nataylia Roni and Clive Rowe. The production is directed by George C Wolfe, who also directed the New York production which ran on Broadway in summer 2004 following an initial sell-out at New York’s Public Theater.


Meanwhile, Clarke Peters and Nicola Hughes will take the title roles in Trevor Nunn’s new musical version of the Gershwin’s jazz opera Porgy and Bess, which opens on 9 November 2006 (previews from 25 October) at the West End’s Savoy Theatre (See News, 30 Jun 2006).

Peters and Hughes have previously co-starred together in the West End in Simply Heavenly and Chicago. Peters’ other credits include Five Guys Named Mo, Mourning Becomes Electra, The Iceman Cometh and Driving Miss Daisy; Hughes’ include Fosse, Damn Yankees and Tommy.

Also confirmed for the 40-strong Porgy and Bess cast are Cornell John (Les Miserables, The Full Monty, The Lion King) as Crown, Dawn Hope (Simply Heavenly, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Little Shop of Horrors, The Black Mikado) as Serena OT Fagbenle (Six Degrees of Separation at the Royal Exchange) as Sportin’ Life.

Originally a novel by DuBose Heyward, Porgy and Bess is set in 1912 South Carolina, around Charleston's Catfish Row, and centres on cripple Porgy who offers shelter to Bess, recently broken free from her brutish lover. Heyward collaborated with George and Ira Gershwin to create the jazz opera – featuring now-classic songs such as "Summertime", "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" – which premiered in 1935 and was made into a 1959 screen version starred Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge.

In 1986, Trevor Nunn previously directed the opera at Glyndebourne with Willard White and Cynthia Haymon. The director has reworked the opera into a two-and-a-half hour musical, with a score specially adapted by Gareth Valentine. The £3 million production is presented in London by produced in London by Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Howard Panter for Ambassador Theatre Group and Tulbart Productions.

- by Terri Paddock


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