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Dueling stages

When it came to home teams vs. visitors, audiences were the winners
By CAROLYN CLAY  |  December 20, 2011

It's been the visitors versus the home teams this year. Host-with-the-most ArtsEmerson, which launched in the fall of 2010, continued its barrage of intriguing guests, from Ireland's Druid and Abbey Theatres to New York avant-gardists Elevator Repair Service and Mabou Mines, to international pooh-bah Sir Peter Brook. But rather than roll over and play dead, our largest regional troupes, the Huntington Theatre Company and American Repertory Theater, presented strong seasons as well, including imports (England's Propeller at the Huntington) and exports (ART's The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess opens on Broadway next month) of their own. You Republicans can decide whether to call it a trickle-down, but there was also memorable work on smaller stages.


Two of the most iconic scores in American musical theater, those of Porgy and Bess and Candide, have long been chained to troublesome librettos. But it's never too late to break free! And 2011 brought narrative improvements to both shows. ART unveiled The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, helmed by artistic director Diane Paulus, with a book retooled by Pulitzer-winner Suzan-Lori Parks. The result was an American classic given new momentum. And when Norm Lewis, a noble if painfully twisted Porgy, and Audra McDonald, a Bess palpably fighting her addictions, entwined their gorgeous voices around "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," audiences thought they'd gone to the Promised Land those Catfish Rowers keep singing about.  

READ the full review here.

Across the river, Obie-winning director Mary Zimmerman returned to Voltaire's 1759 novella to devise a new book for the Leonard Bernstein satiric operetta based on Candide. The result was a witty and imaginative production with shape as well as irony that fielded, in Lauren Molina, a daffily narcissistic Cunégonde glittering and being gay in a bathtub.

READ the full review here.

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