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“Summertime” Spotlight On Porgy & Bess Actor Nathaniel Stampley

June 18, 2014

The Queen City gets a taste of some swinging jazz tunes this “Summertime” as Broadway’s The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess makes a stop on its nationwide tour July 15-20 at Belk Theater. Winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, this show includes some of the original Broadway cast in one of the most thrilling love stories that has graced the stage. Set in Charleston’s legendary Catfish Row we follow the story of Bess, who is trying to escape her past and a dangerous, quite daunting lover, Crowne. That’s when we meet Porgy, the one man with enough pluck to protect her from Crowne and her scurrilous past. Overcoming one temptation after another, Porgy and Bess’ intense bond and powerful romance continues to become an icon for one of the most extraordinary love stories that theater-goers have seen.

With a strong and fascinating character such as Porgy, I thought I might shine a little spotlight on the actor who portrays the hero: Nathaniel Stampley!

Nathaniel Stampley as Porgy in Blumenthal Performing Arts production of Porgy & Bess.

Nathaniel Stampley is Porgy in “The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess.”

Bitten by the music bug even as a child, born-and-raised Milwaukee native Stampley was the son of a minister and a music teacher. Working his way up from singing in congregations at his church to high school theater productions, he had made a name for himself with his powerhouse voice. When graduating however he faced a dilemma: to go to the University of Wisconsin to study Theatre or to study Opera? His work in six musicals locally and a sudden move to Chicago had made it clear how he sealed his fate. After performing in a number of small productions he got the call to star in London’s West End, Disney’The Lion King as the brave, commanding Mufasa. After playing in London he joined the national touring cast to play the same show for audiences around the country. Fun fact: Stampley is only the third actor to have ever played Mufasa for the show, and one of the youngest as well! When he met the production’s Tony-winning director, Julie Taymor, she motivated him to use his young energy to play the father instead of reaching for the older portrayal; to be mature yet youthful. After his Lion King stint, he finally made his Broadway breakthrough in The Color Purple as Sofia’s boyfriend and as the understudy for Harpo.

Stampley has said that The Lion King will always hold a place for him in his heart since he met his wife, dancer Lanette Costas, on the national tour of the Disney blockbuster. After becoming good friends on tour they dated and eventually married in 2004. Then in June of 2006 after finishing their second tour of The Lion King, they welcomed their daughter Ayana. Accepting his new ‘role’ in life as a father has made Stampley more appreciative about his other role in his Disney performance.

“I realize that you don’t own your child, you’re simply guiding her so that when you’re not around anymore, you’ve taught her to be a great human being and a contributor to society. The Lion King is about all the essential things—life and death and love and loss. It speaks to our humanity.”

A truly inspiring character both onstage and off, you won’t want to miss Stampley as Porgy in the upcoming production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Nab your tickets for this stunning performance before they’re “Gone, Gone Gone”!

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