The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess at National Theatre Friday, Dec. 27

The return of Porgy and Bess to the National Theatre means much more than rousing dance numbers and the operatic, oozing notes of “Summertime”: It was the first musical performed for a desegregated audience at the gilded Pennsylvania Avenue NW venue. When the original production of Porgy and Bess came to D.C. in 1936, the cast went on strike. Led by Todd Duncan, the actors refused to play a theater that limited which seats black patrons could purchase tickets for. Management eventually gave into their demands, integrating the venue. This tour stop of the much-updated Porgy and Bess, which snagged the 2012 Tony for Best Revival, is unlikely to reach similar heights of historical import. But judging by the reaction to the current production—which caused Stephen Sondheim to write a very heated letter to the New York Times and prompted critic Hilton Als to write that Sondheim didn’t understand black people—the show still has the power to provoke. The show runs Dec. 25 to 29 at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. $48–$198. (202) 628-6161. thenationaldc.org.

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