Composed by George Gershwin
Libretto by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Musical Score Adapted by Diedre L. Murray
Music Direction, Additional Arrangements and Orchestrations
by Kevin Toney
Directed by Jonathan Fox
February 9-26, 2017
The season continues with a bold jazz interpretation of the great American musical Porgy and Bess, composed by George Gershwin, with a libretto by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. Adapted for the Broadway stage by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Father Comes Home from the Wars), Porgy and Bess tells the tragic story of the love between a crippled beggar and a beautiful yet broken former cocaine addict and prostitute. Working with a live jazz ensemble, the musical features beloved songs, including “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Sponsored by Sara Miller McCune and Lee Luria. With Support from Elaine and Mike Gray • Elaine and Herbert Kendall • Debby and Peter Stalker • Dana White
Additional Support provided by Eve Bernstein • The Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival
2016-17 Season sponsored by The Stephen and Carla Hahn Foundation.
A bold jazz reorchestration, set in 1960s South Carolina.
"Be prepared for a powerful theatrical experience with the George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward opera Porgy and Bess on stage at the New Vic. The 1935 pageant of the life and times of impoverished black people on Charleston’s Catfish Row has been praised, criticized, and reworked over the years. But, I feel sure, never sung more movingly." Santa Barbara Independent
Peggy Blow* (Mariah) began her theatrical career in musical theatre and has weaved through the years with dramatic and comedic offerings as well. Ms. Blow returns to the ETC stage for a second time, having performed the role of Mrs. Dickson in the 2015 production of Intimate Apparel. She continues an illustrious theatrical career here in Santa Barbara and will join the Open Fist Theatre Company in Los Angeles for a six week run of The Gary Cycle Plays, immediately following this run of Porgy and Bess. No stranger to television audiences, you’ve seen her guest star in many prime time favorites, and you can see Peggy in several that are upcomig, including Showtime’s "I'm Dying up Here" as Agnes, the FX production of "Snowfall" as Granny Coca, and the Net ix production of "The Real Bob," where she plays Amelia, just to name a few. She is proudly represented by SMITH & HERVEY/GRIMES TALENT AGENCY.
Philip Brandon* (Mingo) is ecstatic to be returning to the beautiful New Vic Theatre! He was last seen in ETC's production of Woyzeck as the "Carnival Announcer." Broadway National Tours: The Color Purple (Preacher/Ol' Mister). Regional: frozen - Live at the hyperion (Grand Pabbie/Guard),Tarzan (Kerchak), Ain't Misbehavin' (Ken), Ragtime (Coalhouse). Opera: Iceland (The Bull), Porgy And Bess (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra). In addition to being a member of multi platinum rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Phillip is currently recording a new album on the heels of success of his Billboard Smooth Jazz acclaimed debut. www.phillipbrandon.com. Follow me on social media: @PhillipBrandon2.
Aaron Braxton (Robbins)has a career that spans the genres of theatre, television, and film. As a writer and performer, his critically acclaimed solo play, Did You Do Your homework? garnered several national and international awards including a NAACP Image Award and an International Romanian Gala Star. Hailing from Roxbury, MA, he currently makes his residence in Los Angeles. A graduate of San Diego State University, and a Masters graduate of USC, he has authored several books and plays. Most recently having written and directed the solo show Belafonte Unauthorized, about artist and activist Harry Belafonte. In addition, he has starred, guest starred, or co-starred in several lm, TV and theatrical release productions including "Scorpion," "Bad Judge", "CSI Miami," "Hoover Park," "The District," "Beverly Hills 90210," The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer, Killer Cop, "Video Game High School," recurring roles on "General Hospital," and "Days of Our Lives," hair, Dreamgirls, and A Raisin in the Sun, as well as a supporting role the upcoming feature lm, Slamma Jamma, in theatres March 24th. Current writing projects in preproduction include the play, Broken, the TV pilot, "The Sub of Anywhere U.S.D., the lm, A Condition of faith, and the novel, "Jesse and the Caterpillar That Got His Wings."
Ashley Lynette Brown* (Clara) - a proud NYU Tisch grad, is blown away that she gets to be part of this incredible production and cast! Favorite credits: Recorded in Hollywood (Ovation Award nominee), Female Swing in We Are the Tigers (Ovation Award Winner), Gena/Reagan Understudy in Bachelorette, Denise in Summer School: the Stage Parody, Toshi in Jacqueline Woodson's Show Way (Alliance Award nominee), Chiffon in Little Shop of horrors, Ti Moune in Once On This Island, and Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar. Ashley got her start in a commercial directed by iconic director Spike Lee and has gone on to appear in over 15 national commercials and several TV shows. Love to my fam, Nancy, Aaron and ETC! IG: @AshleyisBrown www.AshleyLBrown.com
Karole Foreman* (Bess) recently appeared in haunted house Party at the Getty Villa and Stupid f’ing Bird at Cygnet Theatre in San Diego. Other productions include Sweeney Todd and Intimate Apparel with Ensemble Theatre Company, fences (International City Theater), Wedding Band (Antaeus Theatre Company), Next to Normal (Cal Rep), Difficulty of Crossing A field and Queenie Pie (Long Beach Opera), Caroline or Change (PCPA), Parade and Jelly’s Last Jam (The Mark Taper and The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta), and Mama Mia! (Mandalay Bay, Vegas). Karole worked with the L.A. Women’s Shakespeare Co., did two seasons with The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and performed in numerous regional theaters across the country. Awards: NAACP Nomination for fences, Stage Raw Nomination for Wedding Band, 2014 OC Weekly Award for Next to Normal, Suzi Bass Award for Jelly’s Last Jam (Atlanta), Garland for As Bees in honey Drown, Drama Logue / Awards for Minamata and The Illusion. TV: "Rebel," "Glow," "Kingdom," "Training Day," "The Young and the Restless," "Heartbeat," "Stitchers," "Jane the Virgin," Adam Ruins Everything," "Gortimer Gibbons," "Switched at Birth," "Rizzoli and Isles," "Murder in the First," "Pretty Little Liars," "Grey’s Anatomy," "Bones," "Medium," Law and Order," "Third Watch," "The Bold and the Beautiful." Film: 42, Rebirth, and Buddy Solitaire.
Brian Harwell (Detective) is a Santa Barbara resident last seen on the ETC stage playing Steve in Looped and Carl the cellist in Opus. He has performed in or directed over fifty productions on the Central Coast during the past fteen years, earning Independent Awards for his performance as Richard York in Death of Kings, Jack in The Designated Mourner, Warwick in henry VI, part iii, the three clones in A Number, Mr. Webb in Our Town, James in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, John Barrymore in I hate hamlet, and for his direction of Return Engagements. Other notable local productions include Sherlock Holmes in The hound of the Baskervilles, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Clov in Endgame, Bill W. in Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Juror #8 in Twelve Angry Men, Leslie in Seascape, Austin in True West (Four Star Theatre Award), Greg in Sylvia, Ed Carmichael in You Can’t Take it With You, and Pastor Manders in Ghosts. He received a B.A. from Williams College and is the Undergraduate Advisor for the Department of Theater and Dance at U.C. Santa Barbara.
Frank Lawson* (Sporting Life) has performed all over the US, Caribbean, Asia and Italy in musical productions. Some of his favorite credits include When Jazz had The Blues (Billy Strayhorn) at The Matrix, Edgar Arceneaux’s Until, Until...Until (Ben Vereen) at 3LD (winner of the Performa 15 Malcolm McLaren Award), freeze frame (Bishop) starring and directed by Debbie Allen at Wallis Annenberg, hair (Berger) at Zach Scott and (Hud) at 5th Avenue Theatre, Summer of Love (Rufus) with Michelle Lee at MTW, The Who's Tommy (Hawker) at Casa Manana and Recorded In hollywood (Leon Washington) at Kirk Douglas Theatre. He crooned in the one-man musical Songs from An Unmade Bed at Celebration Theatre and toured Asia playing several roles in the hit rock opera, RENT. Frank is a graduate of Southern Methodist University with BFAs in Theatre and Advertising and is honored to have shared stages with legends Ossie Davis, Bernadette Peters, Ben Vereen, and Stephen Sondheim. He is the voice of 8 year old wrestler "R Truth" in Seth Green's new animated TV series "CAMP WWE." www.thefranklawson.com
Dawnn Lewis* (Serena) is an NAACP Image Award, Trumpet Award, Grammy Award-winning singer, multiple ASCAP & BMI Award-winning songwriter, film, television & stage actor, and a Series TV creator/producer, now on the TNT series "Major Crimes." A few voice over credits include: "Futurama," "The Simpsons," "Doc McStuf ns," "Home," "Sophia the First," "The X-Men," "Spiderman," and Disney/Pixar’s Academy Award winning animated feature hits Inside Out! and Monsters University. Upcoming feature lm: The Revival, written and produced by Harry Lennix, starring Grammy sensation Mali Music. TV credits include: "A Different World" (composer of shows theme song), "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper," "Any Day Now," "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," and "One Tree Hill." Theatre: NYC City Center “Encore’s” Broadway presentation of The Wiz as Addapearle, Smitty in how To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, with Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullaly; Best Actress: Fred Award, and nominated for the 2007 Best Actress; Suzi Award for her performance in the World Premiere of the Broadway hit Sister Act: The Musical as Deloris Van Cartier. Dawnn’s record label, Morning Jewel Music, released her solo CD "Worth Waiting For" - its title song featured in the Disney movie The Proof Point, in which she starred, and her holiday CD “Donny McCullough & Friends: Candles in the Window” are both available on Amazon & ITunes. She’s recorded with or composed for Everett Harp, Patrice Rushen, Vanessa Williams, Nancy Wilson, Take 6, Wayman Tisdale, Grover Washington Jr., Quincy Jones, and Tom Scott to name a few. Dawnn also nds time to teach Master Classes, mentor youth across the country, give motivational lectures and lend her support to The Los Angeles Urban League, The United Negro College Fund, American Cancer Society, The March of Dimes, EMPOWHER, the Hall of Fame Foundation, Habitat For Humanity, The United States Conference on AIDS, The K.I.S. Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease, Artists For A New South Africa, Camp re Boys and Girls, The NBA/WNBA and other important causes.
LeSean Lewis (Crab Man) is enjoying his debut with Ensemble Theatre Company as Peter the Honeyman in Porgy and Bess. Lewis is also known for his role as Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the Las Vegas production of Dreamgirls, and featured soloist in the European Tour opera of Porgy and Bess under the direction of Walter Huff. Lewis received his classical training at Morehouse College. He also traveled with the well renowned Moses Hogan Singers. Lewis debuted his rst solo recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City accompanied by Joseph Joubert on piano. He recently bared it all as the Musical Director for the touring production of The Wiz, which opened at The Smith Center in Las Vegas. LeSean wishes to thank his Broadway In The HOOD (Helping Others Open Doors) family and GOD who is "The Reason Why He Sings".
Constance Jewell Lopez (Strawberry Woman) is overjoyed to make her Ensemble Theatre Company debut! Constance Jewell Lopez was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. She most recently starred as Deloris Van Cartier in Musical Theatre West's production of Sister Act. Her performances as Sofia in The Color Purple with Celebration Theatre and as Effie White in Dreamgirls with DOMA Theatre Company garnered both popular and critical acclaim. Constance has also toured with Underground artist, Lyrics Born, as well as Huey Lewis and the News. Other theatre credits include: The Acid Queen in The Who's Tommy (East West Players), Motormouth Maybelle in hairspray (Fiesta Theatre), BJ in Smokey Joe's Cafe (Center Rep), Maggie in Working (Actors' Ensemble of Berkeley), and The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (Storybook Theatre) . Television credits include: "The Office," and "Melissa & Joey." Constancegivesthankstohersupportive and loving husband, Jaime Lopez. Member of Actors' Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. Website: www.constancejewelllopez.com, Twitter, Instagram: @Divalopeezie
Sean O'Shea (Policeman) began his foray into acting at San Diego State University back in 1982 after deciding to leave Aerospace Engineering, for which he didn’t have the personality. Since then he has produced and directed a score of shows, and has acted in roughly 80 productions. Sean is founder and former artistic director of the Santa Barbara Shakespeare Festival. He’s been seen in their productions of The Miser, hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Twelfth Night, Pvt. Wars, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has performed at San Diego State, The Old Globe, and with the companies Actors for Actors, Black Friars, The Bowery (San Diego), and with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (Boise). Some of Sean’s local productions include, The fox in the fairway, Return Engagements, Wally’s Café, It Runs in the family, Sherlock’s Last Case, The Odd Couple, It had to be You, Leading Ladies, Who’s in Bed with the Butler (Circle Bar B), August Osage County, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Enchanted April, Smash, Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander, and As You Like It (SBCC).
Elijah Rock* (Porgy) was nominated for a 2016 Los Angeles, Ovation Award for Best Featured performer as legendary Harlem show man Cab Calloway in I Only have Eyes for You: The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin and is the Winner of the 2014 NAACP Theater Award for Best Male Equity performer in Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland hayes. Rock is a triple threat who has appeared as a recurring guest star on the acclaimed Showtime Television series “Masters of Sex,” as well as starring in lm, theatrical stage plays and musicals nationwide. Following Porgy and Bess, Rock will be touring the release (February 24th, 2017) of his contemporary and decidedly African American twist to the music of George & Ira Gershwin (and a couple of Ira’s other collaborators) with the innovative recording "Gershwin For My Soul," produced by Kevin Toney (musical director of Porgy and Bess). Albums are available for purchase in the lobby during intermission. Elijah is thrilled to be making his debut appearance at the esteemed Ensemble Theatre Company. AEA, SAG, AFTRA. www.elijahrock.com
KB Solomon (Crown)possesses a true bass voice that is a hybrid of rare ability. He is one of the most prominent basso profundo singers, having performed principal roles with major opera companies worldwide for over twenty years. His repertoire includes operas by Prokoev, Verdi, Rossini, Bizet, Mozart, Strauss, Puccini, Wagner, Saint Saen, and Handel. He received his training as a voice major at ve American Universities: USC Artist in residence, Portland State, Jacksonville State, Warner Pacific College, University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, and University of California Los Angeles, as well as at the Opera Musical Theater Institute under the direction of the legendary Jerome Hines and Franco Corelli. His awards include the Richard Tucker Career Grant, Sullivan Musical Foundation Award, first place winner in the Metropolitan Western Regional Auditions, national finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions and winner of the 1990 Liederkranz Competition. KB Solomon is currently performing a one-man show about the music and life of Paul Robeson. KB’s most recent projects include Therapeutic Concerts, where by he utilizes musical sounds for healing. He sings in English, Italian, German, French and Spanish. He artfully and effortlessly transcends music style boundaries, from Opera to R&B, Pop, Jazz, blues, Broadway, Classical and Gospel music.
Davon Williams* (Jake) is ecstatic to be making his ETC debut in Porgy and Bess. He is a 2016 Ovation award nominee, former Theatre Director for the Philadelphia School District's Regional Talent Centers, and 2015 International Sports Champion in Dragonboat (Team Mushu). Notable 2016 productions: Grey Gardens (CTG) and Dreamgirls (McCoy/Rigby). His full bio can be found at DavonWilliams.com. "Iniaalay ko ang aking pagtatanghal sa mga kaibigan kong Pinoy na nagturo sa akin para mabuhay sa kasalukuyan! At Jesimiel, salamat." @Daywilling
*Member, Actors' Equity
- Book Club, Feb 15, 2017, 5:30 - 6:30pm: Scripts are now available for checkout at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 East Anapamu Street. Join other theatregoers for a lively discussion about the play from a literary and dramatic perspective. FREE!
- Federation Night: Feb 16, 7:00pm: Join the Jewish Federation for Porgy and Bess, and enjoy a special night at a special price. Use promo code JFED for a discounted ticket - only $45. Plus enjoy a private reception from 7:00-8:00 pm to nosh and schmooze with fellow JFED friends and supporters.
- Pre-Show Talk, Feb 15 & 22, 2017 at 7:15 pm: Join us in the courtyard of The New Vic for an informative and insightful discussion about the play before you see it, sure to enhance your theatrical experience.
- Martini Night, Feb 17, 2017 at 7:15pm, performance at 8:00pm: Free to ticket holders. Come early to enjoy a complimentary martini and mingle before the show.
- Talk Back, Feb 23, 2017: Meet the cast after the show and discuss the production.
- Student Matinee, Feb 24, 2017 at 11:00 am. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information. Reservations required.
"Ensemble Artistic Director Jonathan Fox has assembled a formidable cast for this production...Karole Foreman, who will play Bess, previously appeared in two Ensemble productions, Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel and last season’s Sweeney Todd. Elijah Rock, who will play Porgy, is a newcomer to Ensemble but a veteran performer of songs by Gershwin and others. His album, Gershwin for My Soul, produced by the show’s musical director Kevin Toney, will be released later this month." Read the full Santa Barbara Independent Review.