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February 27, 2014 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-02-27

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arts & entertainment

A Legendary Duo

Detroiters can enjoy a new staging of The Gershwins'
Porgy and Bess as U-M begins a study of their works.


Suzanne Chessler

Contributing Writer


ust as The Gershwins' Porgy and
Bess tour is about to visit Detroit,
the University of Michigan is
launching its Gershwin Initiative, a program
to clarify works by George and Ira Gershwin
and generate an educational effort across the
Ann Arbor campus.
The new staging of the show, directed by
Tony-winner Diane Paulus and featuring a
23-piece orchestra, runs March 4-9 at the
Detroit Opera House. The initiative, sup-
ported with private funding, is expected to
go on for decades.
"I know that if George and Ira were alive,
they would be proud of this production
of Porgy and Bess:' says Todd Gershwin, a
grandnephew of the musical team and a
U-M alumnus key to bringing together his
family and the university for the initiative.
"Porgy and Bess was created in 1935 and is
still as relevant as ever, speaking to the iconic
nature of what George and Ira created"
The new production, winner of the 2012
Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, will
feature many members of the Broadway cast,
such as Nathaniel Stampley as Porgy and
Alicia Hall Moran as Bess.
Mark Clague, named editor-in-chief of the
developing George and Ira Gershwin Critical
Edition, is associate professor of musicology

and director of research at the U-M School of
Music, Theatre & Dance. The edition will be
released in volumes as Gershwin works are
researched by scholars, become the subjects
of new courses and symposia and are used to
plan performances at the school and beyond.
"We already have a huge amount of mate-
rial on Porgy and Bess (based on DuBose
Heyward's novel Porgy and the play of the
same name), in part due to the work of
James Standifer, a previous faculty member
who helped develop a documentary [about
the opera] for PBS" Clague explains.
"We have an enormous amount of oral
history and own the papers of the chorus
master for the original production."
The Gershwin archives, maintained at
the Library of Congress, will be the essential
source for the critical edition. Scholars will
go over original scores with notations to
establish authoritative performance materials
that reflect the intent of George Gershwin as
composer and Ira Gershwin as lyricist.
The volumes will have print versions avail-
able through Schott Music Corporation and
its European American Music Distributors
Company. An online component will be
accessible to the public.
Each volume will have an essay on the
work being examined and relevant perfor-
mance traditions as well as commentary to
explain editorial decisions based on exami-
nation of original documents.

"The documents in the
Library of Congress record
each step that the creative
artists used to produce each
Porgy and Bess collaborators George Gershwin, DuBose
final work" Clague says.
Heyward and Ira Gershwin, spring 1934
"We're going to retrace those
steps to make sure that what
ultimately was printed represents as closely as Gershwin musical legacy.
possible [the Gershwins'] vision of what each
"I'm very proud and excited about this
work was to be."
project because it celebrates the genius of
The goal is to check for misunderstand-
George (1898-1937) and Ira (1896-1983)
ings that may have occurred for various
Gershwin and their contributions" says Todd
reasons, such as handwritten scores and
Gershwin, who cherishes rare childhood
different uses of abbreviations by production time spent with Ira Gershwin.
staff members in the 1920 and 1930s.
"Today, there is so much emphasis on per-
Famous works to be included in the
formers, I hope students will come to under-
scholarly review include Rhapsody in Blue,
stand the importance of songwriting.
An American in Paris, Cuban Overture and
"George and Ira were unique in that they
the songs that the brothers wrote together
were brothers, collaborators and best friends.
for Broadway and Hollywood musicals, such
I hope people understand that and how
as "I Got Rhythm" "Embraceable You" and
it resulted in all this beautiful music still
"They Can't Take That Away From Me."
"The Jewish heritage of the Gershwins
comes into play as we do this work" Clague
says, "People who understand the Gershwins'
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
will be performed March 4-9 at
stylistic voice see it as very intimately con-
the Detroit Opera House, 1526
nected to Jewish tradition and the music
Broadway. Curtain times are at 8
Jewish musicians brought to New York from
p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m.
all over the world"
Saturday, and 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Both Todd Gershwin and Clague agree
Sunday. $29-$87. (313) 237-7464;
that the university is appropriate for this
www.broadwayindetroit.com .
project because of research and performance
disciplines that parallel the vast range of the


4.. Nate Bloom

0=1 Special to the Jewish News

LI Oscar Time

xi The 86th Academy Awards airs 7

Sunday, March 2, on ABC. Ellen
CO p.m.
DeGeneres will host. The following are

Al the confirmed Jewish nominees in all
but the technical categories.



Jonah Hill, 29, is up for Best
Supporting Actor for The Wolf of Wall
Street, in which he plays Donny Azoff,
the main assistant to real-life Jewish
Wall Street swindler Jordan Belfort
(Leonardo DiCaprio, nominated for Best
Actor). Azoff is a made-up character
name, though some plot details track a
real-life Jewish Belfort associate.
In American Hustle, Christian Bale
is nominated for Best Actor for play-
ing another Jewish con-man, Irving
Rosenfeld, a character loosely based
on real-life Jewish con-man Melvin
Weinberg, now 89. Weinberg was
recruited by the FBI for Abscam, the


February 27 • 2014

1970s sting operation that went after
"bribe-prone" members of Congress.
The second Jewish acting nominee
is June Squibb, 84, a veteran charac-
ter actress who is nominated for Best
Supporting Actress for playing the
ornery, plainspoken wife of the lead
character in Nebraska, played by Best
Actor nominee Bruce Dern.
The Jewish Journal of Greater L.A.
reported last week that "Squibb con-
verted to Judaism before marrying her
first husband in the 1950s; she said she
fell in love with the religion, was fasci-
nated by the laws of kashrut and forged
a strong friendship with the Reform
rabbi who supervised her conversion.
Even though that marriage ended
in divorce some years later, Squibb
continues to identify as Jewish and
celebrates many of the holidays with
Jewish friends."


American Hustle director David 0.
Russell, 55, is nominated for Best

Director and co-nominated for Best

Original Screenplay. This is the third
directing nomination for Russell, who
is the secular son of a Jewish father
and an Italian Catholic mother. Hustle
was co-written by first-time nominee
Eric Warren Singer, 46, a Beverly Hills
native whose grandparents helped
found the first synagogue there.
Also nominated for Best Original
Screenplay, for Blue Jasmine, is Woody
Allen, 78. This is Allen's 24th Oscar
nomination. He has won four times
(three times for his screenplays, once
as a director).
Another nominee for Best Original
Screenplay is Spike Jonze, who wrote
and also directed the film about the
relationship between a real man and
a computer-generated female voice.
Jonze, 44, born Adam Spiegel, is the
secular son of a Jewish father/non-Jew-
ish mother and also is co-nominated for
Best Original Song for Her.
Billy Ray, 39, is nominated for Best
Adapted Screenplay for Captain Phillips,
about the capture of an American mer-
chant ship by Somali pirates.


Mexico City-born Emmanuel Lubezki,
50, has long been one of the top cin-
ematographers in Hollywood. This
year, he's Oscar-nominated for Best
Cinematography for the sixth time, for
his work on Gravity.


Nominated for Best Documentary
Feature is Jess Oppenheimer, 39,
with Signe Byrge Sorensen, for The
Act of Killing, about the mass mur-
derers behind genocide in Indonesia.
Filmmaker Jason Cohen, 40, earned
a nomination for Best Documentary
Short Subject for Facing Fear, about the
real-life meeting between a gay man
and the former white supremacist who
assaulted him many years before.


Nominees for Best Picture (goes to
the film's producers): Scott Rudin, 55,

Captain Phillips; David Heyman, 52,
Gravity; and Rachel Winter and Robbie
Brenner, both 42, Dallas Buyers Club.

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