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MUSIC REVIEW : A Warm New Bess Portrayal in 'Porgy'

June 15, 1995

Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" is about the transforming power of love, and Charlae Olaker, who took over the role of Bess on Tuesday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, effected a sweet and persuasive change from pride and self-involvement to sunny dedication to another person in the course of falling in love with Porgy.

In fact, so warm and gracious were the changes that her final reversion to the high life came a bit abruptly, especially as Olaker didn't delineate the character's desperate inner need as Porgy is dragged off to view Crown's body, perhaps never to return.

Vocally, Olaker offered a smallish soprano, even and coppery in tone. But she compensated for her lack of volume by vividly reacting to others--both Porgy and Crown--and by interpolating a splendid high riff in "Leavin' fo' de Promis' Lan'."

It didn't help that her Porgy, Terry Cook, tended to overpower her vocally. Cook, along with all the other principals, has been previously reviewed. John DeMain, who again conducted, tried, not always successfully, to keep the orchestra in balance with Olaker.

* "Porgy and Bess" continues through Sunday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (213) 972-7211. The production moves to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa June 21. (714) 740-2000.

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