Saturday 30th April 19.30
New London Theatre
Show Boat promised to be an ‘old style’ musical that had been bought up to date from its 1927 origins. My initial thought was that this would be a difficult task. In reality what is seen on stage makes it look stunningly simple.There is no contrived modernisation of the work and indeed there is no further resolution of the issues of race and ethnic background that the original production addressed in such a ground breaking manner. This production does,however, perfectly combine both the black and the white characters together in dance and movement; drawing attention to what earlier productions had not done in such a strong statement. It left us with a stark realisation of why the original Show Boat broke so many rules at the time.
Emmanuel Kojo’s rendition of Ol’ Man River certainly demonstrated the nature of slavery and the sense that it had gone on forever and would continue to do so. He conjures up a a feeling of longing for change coupled with quiet resignation.
Sandra Marvin as Queenie shows us a strong character, rather than simply a jovial cook, who was fiercely proud of her heritage and we undoubtedly believe that Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man was derived from her roots. Indeed it is Queenie who reminds the younger generation of how to dance it correctly.
Together the pair had great timing and chemistry; we really cared for these people who were resilient, determined but caring and positive.
In terms of musical style Show Boat is more operetta than more modern shows. Certainly the heroine, Magnolia pays more than a nod to this. Here she is played by Gina Beck who was a joy to watch and hear.
The choreography is beautiful throughout and the set prices are exhilarating serving to drive the forward the action. The story in this particular production remains strong.
All in all Show Boat was a great night out, the teen who is often opinionated about her great love for Sondheim over Hammerstein, enjoyed it thoroughly. Although I’ve only written about several of the cast specifically all the ensemble were flawless.
The only disappointment I had was that for such a great show, with excellent reviews,the audience were lacking in numbers. Our upgraded seats (from restricted view dress circle to slightly off centre stalls) were a bonus for us but actually I’d much prefer to have seen a theatre full of people experiencing such an important show.