Show’s di­rec­tor on a mis­sion

Broadway vet­eran puts his stamp on “Porgy and Bess.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Michelle F. Solomon Art­burstMi­ami.com

Richard Jay-Alexan­der is a ball of en­ergy, hands flail­ing and talk­ing in a rapid stac­cato. He uses the word “in­tense” of­ten, and talks about live theater as if it’s a mat­ter of life and death. “Look,” he says, “when you’re do­ing a big pro­duc­tion, the stakes have to be high, be­cause the stakes are high.”

Most re­cently, Jay-Alexan­der has planted his stake in the South Florida Sym­phony Orches­tra’s pro­duc­tion of “Porgy and Bess.” The Ge­orge Gersh­win-penned mu­si­cal is quite an un­der­tak­ing for the Wilton Manors-based orches­tra, which be­gan as the Key West Sym­phony Orches­tra in Au­gust 1997. True to its name, it plays South Florida with con­certs at three venues for each of its pro­grams: the Adri­enne Ar­sht Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in Mi­ami, the Broward Cen­ter for the Per- form­ing Arts in Fort Laud­erdale, and the Ten­nessee Williams The­atre in Key West. “Porgy and Bess” will be per­formed Jan. 16 in Mi­ami, Jan. 19 in Key West and Jan. 23 in Fort Laud­erdale.

“I per­son­ally had never heard of the South Florida Sym­phony,” ad­mits JayAlexan­der, who lives in Mi­ami Beach. Last Fe­bru­ary, he went to see singer Liz Call­away, whom he had di­rected in a show at Carnegie Hall, when she was per­form­ing at the Knight Con­cert Hall at the Ar­sht Cen­ter. “And this orches­tra was play­ing be­hind her, and I was like, ‘Holy crap. Why don’t I know about this orches­tra?’ ”

He re­calls an­other “holy crap” mo­ment in the mid­dle of the per­for­mance, when one of the singers on the bill, Neil Nel­son, an­nounced he was go­ing to be star­ring in the orches­tra’s pro­duc­tion of “Porgy and Bess.”

“I went berserk,” he says. “I was like, “Where? How? What?’ ”

Jay-Alexan­der says he be­came a man on a mis­sion. He walked into the af­ter­show re­cep­tion and told Call­away he needed to meet whomever he could talk to about be­ing part of the sym­phony’s “Porgy and Bess.”

LUKE BAL­LEN­TINE

Neil Nel­son and Brandie Sut­ton star in South Florida Sym­phony Orches­tra’s pro­duc­tion of “Porgy and Bess.”

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