Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Saturday, 16 August 2014
Showboat, Aug 16, 2014 ****
Music by Jerome
Kern; book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; based on novel by Edna Ferber By the Production Company
State Theatre, Arts Centre
Melbourne, Aug 16 to 24, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Monday Aug 18 and later in print. KH
Showboat - Alinta Chidzey and Gareth Keegan; pic Jeff Busby
Show Boat may have hit the musical theatre stage
in 1927 but it echoes compelling, 21st century issues including racial
intolerance, family breakdown and the desire for fame and a quick buck.
features some of the most memorable and singable tunes by Jerome Kern and Oscar
Hammerstein II, but Show Boat also broke boundaries by successfully weaving
serious themes into a perky, musical theatre spectacle.
The story spans the years of 1887 to 1927 and tracks
the lives of the Hawks family, owners of the Mississippi show boat, Cotton
Blossom, and its performers, stage hands and dock workers.
The vivid, cheerful veneer of this floating
world of melodrama and music hall acts, masks an underbelly of prejudice and doomed love.
This production, directed deftly by Roger
Hodgman, uses a pared down version of Show Boat that effectively narrows the
breadth of the original, expansive show.
The result is a taut, captivating production
with accomplished and versatile leads, a balance of operatic and musical
theatre voices, sassy choreography (Dana Jolly), a nimble orchestra and tight
musical direction (Kellie Dickerson).
Perhaps the most recognisable tune in Show
Boat is Ol’ Man River, made famous by Paul Robeson, and Eddie Muliaumaseali’i,
as Joe, delivers it with his rich, velvety bass and the stevedores’
accompanying harmonies are sublime.
In the story, the Mississippi River is a
background character that keeps on rollin’ along without a care for the passing
years or the waxing and waning fortunes of the Showboaters.
Alinta Chidzey glows as young Magnolia and her
bright vocal tone is perfect for her sweetly romantic duet, Only Make Believe,
with the rakish gambler, Ravenal, played by the dapper Gareth Keegan.
Christina O’Neill is emotional and sympathetic
as the mixed race singer, Julie LaVerne, and she sings Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat
Man with playful joy that contrasts with her later, moving rendition of Bill.
Philip Gould is relentlessly cheerful and tolerant
as Cap’n Andy Hawks, a comic contrast to his carping wife, Parthy Ann, played
with relish by Judith Roberts.
Glenn Hill shines as the goofy,
singing-dancing vaudevillian, Frank Schultz, while Nicole Melloy is a fine
comic foil as his dance partner, Ellie May Chipley.
The portentous tune, Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’,
sung poignantly by Heru Pinkasova as Queenie with the other servant ‘gals’,
signals the emotional disasters to come.
Despite its narrative about abandoned wives,
profligate gambling, poverty and bigotry, Show Boat is a joyful and moving show
with a bittersweet ending and it deserves its proud place in musical theatre
Show Boat - Eddie Muliaumaseali-i with chorus; pic Jeff Busby
Showboat - Christina O'Neill_pic Jeff Busby
Alinta Chidzey -
Gareth Keegan -Gaylord Ravenal
Christina O’Neill -Julie LaVerne
Eddie Muliaumaseali’i -Joe
Philip Gould -Cap'n Andy Hawks
Heru Pinkasova -Queenie
Nicole Melloy -Ellie May Chipley
Glenn Hill -Frank Schultz
Judith Roberts -Parthy Ann Hawks
Roger Hodgman - Director
Kellie Dickerson -Musical Director
Dana Jolly- Choreographer Set Designer - Christina Smith Costume Designer - Isaac Lummis Lighting Designer - Matt Scott