Skip to main content

Review of Show Boat at New London Theatre, London

One of the greatest theatre travesty's for 2015 for me was the spectacularly brilliant Anything Goes ending its tour early, despite a company of exceptional talent delivering an incredibly entertaining show it closed four months early. Sadly after watching Show Boat in London this week, I have probably found this years theatre travesty. Yet another show from the obvious talent of production that is Sheffield Theatres is destined for early closure, again by four months, a cruel pattern. True it will have had four months run in London when it finishes, however a production as brilliant as this deserves to run and run.

There is some suggestion that part of Show Boat's early closure is the fact that it doesn't have a "star" in its line-up. In this "star" wording, we are looking at those from television delights like the soaps or X-Factor that would bring the people in their droves, apparently. However Show Boat does have in my opinion far better stars, thirty-one of them in fact. Performers far better suited to treading the boards than the TV studio, and in most cases far, far more talent.

You would probably find no one better to take the role of Magnolia Hawks than Gina Beck, or Gaylord Revenal as played by Chris Peluso, or Queenie as played by Sandra Marvin, to pick just three. Gina Beck in particular in simply incredible, young and playful, old and sorrowful as the story progresses. However it is that voice that delivers in a stunning way, smooth and perfect and so amazingly powerful. I personally have heard few better in my last couple of years and was totally overwhelmed.

Chris Peluso is also stunning in his delivery and his partnership with Beck for Only Make Believe is a certain highlight of the show. Sandra Marvin brings a larger than life personality to Queenie, with three songs of contrasting emotion, my favourite, simply because it was just fun, It Still Suits Me performed with the also superb Emmanuel Kojo as Joe, a very well played naughty old man performance. This was in perfect contrast to his youthful but downtrodden work earlier of that one song that everyone knows from Show Boat, Ol' Man River. He doesn't let the history of the song down, and it is also expertly staged as well, but more on staging later.

Bringing the comedy element to the proceedings are Lucy Briers as Parthy Ann Hawks and Malcolm Sinclair as Captain Andy Hawks. Their marital sparring is a constant highlight, with Sinclair in particular quite brilliant. It's interesting to note with Sinclair has quite substantial programme credits and the absence of the show I particularly know him for, Pie In The Sky in the nineties is a surprise. You have to say, its cleare someone has had quite a career if you can omit a five year prime time show from your CV.

I also greatly enjoyed Alex Young as Ellie May Chipley and Danny Collins as Franks Schultz, who both combined brilliantly in the showtime and bubbly Goodbye My Lady Love, with Schultz showing his dancing talent. Finally of the minor but never inconsequential roles, it was a delight for me to see Victoria Hinde on stage again, playing anything from a town girl to a nun. Having first seen her in Anything Goes, I have to say I just love everything she does. She also takes the ensemble pieces by the horns as only the dance captain should. Just fabulous.

The show itself from Jerome Kern (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) and based on the novel by Edna Ferber has after its ninety years lost none of its power. Indeed with that still shocking appearance so casually of the N word, it perhaps feels even more powerful now. The story is strong and sad, but also gives some hope and it is definitely a stronger tale than many musicals of that time told.

Staging and production is all exceptional, director Daniel Evans keeps every scene full of activity and moving smoothly upon Lez Brotherston's quite brilliant set, which arrives in a way very reminiscent of the boat reaching shore, forcing its way into the auditorium. The sound also works perfectly, creating a perfect atmosphere to every location.

However the choreography from Alistair David is where this show escalates into the stratosphere of perfection. Absolutely buzzing scenes of dance delivered upon the stage to perfection by the ensemble. It is as much a thing of visual delight as it is to listen to from the tremendously talented company.

So yes, Show Boat is an exceptional piece of theatre from a non-showy cast just providing there brilliant skills to entertain the audience. There is simply so much talent on stage in this show that it beggers belief and is an incredibly sad indictment of modern theatre and the reasons for success that this is to close early. However that just means that you will not be able to put off seeing it as soon as possible, as you really must. Let me just leave one of the easiest five stars I have had to do, just right here... «««««

Performance viewed: Tuesday 14th June, 2016 at the New London Theatre, London.

Show Boat continues at the New London Theatre until 27th August, 2016. Details can be found at: http://showboatmusical.co.uk/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Cilla - The Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have to start with a confession dear reader, what I know about Cilla Black can pretty much be written on the back of the Derngate ticket that I clutched on entering the theatre (and that allows for the advert on the back). I have heard a couple of her tunes of course (more than once) and confess, once again, that I generally didn't like what I heard. I think it's clear that with her natural raw form and voice, "a diamond in the rough" as Brian Epstein, her eventual manager describes her, she a performer that you either love or generally, not hate as such, but perhaps just dislike. I fall in the latter. Curiously as I a forty-year-old, I also don't even fall into the Cilla of hit television either, being a BBC viewing family, I never saw her on TV much when I was growing up.

So, coming almost totally fresh to the world of Cilla, it was a little comforting that for the first act, much of the world of Cilla - The Musical revolves not just around star building Cil…

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …