Thursday, June 23, 2016

SHOW BOAT – London 2016: A Theatre Review

The Plot: Magnolia is the naïve daughter of a showboat captain who falls in love with a handsome gambler, Gaylord. At the same time, her best friend and star of the show, Julia, has to leave the boat because of her negro blood.

The Cast: What can I say of the cast? This is a terrific ensemble, where everyone has a chance to shine and I felt they were all emotionally connected with their characters. Every one of them have strong beautiful voices and it’s a pleasure to hear their rendition of songs. My favorites were the girls: Gina Beck is a perfectly innocent Magnolia, Rebecca Trehearn a sensual and beautiful Julie, Sandra Marvin a true winner as Queenie and Alex Young shows great comic timing as Ellie. As for the boys, Tosh Wanogho-Maud delivers a deep and strong “Ol’ Man River” as Joe, Malcolm Sinclair is a terrific Captain Andy, Chris Peluso as Gaylord has the matinee looks of a movie star, last but not least Danny Collins reveals great dancing and comic skills as Frank.

The Score: Wrote in 1927 by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammersmith II, this is still one of the most beautiful scores of all times. The operetta style songs like “Only Make Believe” or “You Are Love”, mix perfectly with the likes of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”, “Bill”, “Life Upon the Wicked Stage”, “Hey, Feller” and the highly emotional “Ol’ Man River”. Personally, I always loved this score and it’s a pleasure to be able to hear all these great songs live on stage. The truth is, today no one writes songs like this and we are all poorer for that. There’s nothing like a Jerome Kern melody and this is his best work.

The Show: Many years ago, I was lucky to see Harold Prince/Susan Stroman’s big revival of SHOW BOAT and loved every second of it. I never dreamt that I would being seeing a new production of this show, but I did and I enjoyed it. Director Daniel Evans gives us an intimate staging of the show, more centered on the drama of its characters and less worried with giving us big production numbers. Sometimes the action is a little bit too slow for my taste, mainly in the more operatic moments, and I miss Susan Stroman’s more dynamic musical staging. But I liked the fact that sometimes the show happens all around us and the arrival of the boat is a big magic theatrical moment. Above all, Evans is excellent at directing the actors and takes full advantage of their talents. Choreographer Alistair David dances may not be very inventive or even exciting, but sometimes they can be pretty contagious, specially in “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”. The dramatic story always brings a tear or two to my eyes and in the end I surrendered to the simple charms of this classic and to the talented cast. It may not be a great SHOW BOAT, but it sure is an enjoyable one!

Cast: Gina Beck, Chris Peluso, Malcom Sinclair, Sandra Marvin, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Rebecca Trehearn, Danny Collins, Alex Young, Lucy Briers, Leo Roberts
Creative Team: Music by Jerome Kern • Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II • Book by Oscar Hammerstein II • Choreography by Alistair David • Directed by Daniel Evans
Photos: Johan Persson
My Rate: 7 (from 1 to 10)


  1. Hi Jorge! I loved Show Boat. I saw it two weeks ago and it was the first musical I've ever seen in the West End (I saw Sunset Boulevard in April but it was at ENO, an opera house). Of course I knew the music and saw the movie but on stage is always another thing. The singers were amazing. I prefer classics so I hope I will see soon Guys and Dolls. But maybee I will change my mind after reading your London musical reviews. Of course, I love your blog.

  2. This is a good intimate production and the cast was terrific. I saw a different production of GUYS AND DOLLS several years ago in London; this new one looks colourful and the score is one of the best ever written for a musical.