One of the world's most loved musicals Show Boat sails into the West End following a critically acclaimed run at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre, directed by the celebrated Daniel Evans and featuring a wonderful cast of musical theatre performers. Not seen in the West End for almost twenty years, this is a rare production of a musical theatre classic, and one that should certainly be on your 'must-see' list this year.
Read on to be convinced why Show Boat is the perfect West End musical to enjoy this spring.
1. The Show
Written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, Show Boat is often credited as the world's first Broadway musical. Written in 1927 the original production brought together book, music and lyrics into a brand new form that has shaped the history of musical theatre over the past century. Based on the book by the same name by Edna Ferber, the show was a roaring success when it first opened on Broadway, and has since been adapted into numerous film versions and productions around the world. There's no greater gift to the musical theatre canon than this incredible musical that should be on every theatre fan's 'must -see' lists, and this glorious new production realises the material perfectly in an invigorating new way.
2. The Score
Despite its age, Show Boat features some of the most popular songs ever heard in musical theatre that have managed to cross over into popular music across multiple decades. Classics such as “Old Man River” have been recorded by artists as diverse as Al Johnson, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Ray Charles and Cher, and have become standards in their own right. The collaboration between Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II includes soaring ballads such as “Bill” and “Only Make Believe” alongside toe-tapping ensemble numbers such as “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” and of course “Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man.” Realised by a stunning orchestra and knock-out cast, this is a rare opportunity to see these show favourites in their intended context performed by some of the industry's most talented performers.
3. The Story
Spanning over 40 pivotal years in American history, Show Boat is a powerful and ground-breaking musical that speaks to a modern audience as much as it did when it first premièred on Broadway in 1927. Through multiple generations the plot follows a number of different families working and living on-board the Cotton Blossom as she sails down the Mississippi River and addresses key issues in American social and domestic politics. At its heart is a wonderful love story that spans decades and proves an uplifting resolution to an intense domestic drama.
4. The Production
This revival comes direct from a sell out run at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre that played to rapturous houses and a string of five-star reviews. Acclaimed by national press as being “unmissable” (The Observer), “Thrilling” (The Sunday Times) and “A musical treat from beginning to end” (Mail on Sunday), the show sails into town on a wave of exceptional reviews. Featuring a stunning design by Lez Brotherson, the New London Theatre has been reconstructed to allow the audience to surround the stage, bringing the action closer to every inch of the auditorium and providing an immersive and powerful experience.
Daniel Evans is fast becoming one of the industry's greatest interpretors of musical theatre. Having gained experience internationally as a wonderful performer in productions such as 'Sunday in the Park with George' and 'Merrily We Roll Along', he has been Artistic Director of the Sheffield Crucible since 2009 where he has presided over a number of highly successful productions including the musicals 'Oliver!' and 'Anything Goes'. His work in the West End includes 'American Buffalo' at the Wyndham's Theatre and was recently announced to succeed Jonathan Church as Artistic Director of the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2016. A truly talented director, his ability to bring out astonishing performances from his actors as well as breath new life into classic texts makes him one of the industry's leading creatives. Show Boat shows his care and respect for the material as well as an understanding of how to please West End audiences.
6. The Leading Men
Show Boat is blessed with a number of fine roles for men, covering multiple ages across the sweeping epic story. Olivier nominated actor Malcolm Sinclair joins the company in the role of Capt. Andy Hawks, perhaps best known for his work in TV including the hit show 'Pie in the Sky'. He has starred in films such as 'Casino Royale' and 'V for Vendetta', and his stage roles include numerous roles at the National Theatre in hit productions such as 'The Habit of Art' and 'The History Boys'. American performer Chris Peluso also joins the company in the lead role of Gaylord Ravenal, direct from playing Chris in the revival of 'Miss Saigon' at the Prince Edward Theatre. Emmanuel Kojo reprises his knock out performance as Joe, delivering the powerful number “Old Man River” that is set to stop the show and prove to be a career defining role.
7. The Leading Ladies
Gina Beck leads the company in the role of Magnolia Hawks, reprising her acclaimed role from the Sheffield production. No stranger to the West End stage, Gina has starred in the popular hit musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre as well as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera for which she was nominated for a Theatre Fans Choice Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She is joined by Rebecca Trehearn as Julia La Verne who recently starred in the Donmar Warehouse's Olivier Award winning revival of 'City of Angels'. Lucy Briers plays Parthy Ann Hawks, returning the West End following 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies' which ran both in London and on Broadway.