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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Showboat, New London Theatre, ★★★★★

Sheffield Theatre’s flagship production of Showboat has finally arrived in the New London Theatre, carrying with it a company that sent shivers down my spine.  Set on board the Cotton Blossom showboat, as it sets sail on the Mississippi river in 1887, this heart-wrenching story of racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love, will make you glow with joy.

Originally staged in 1927, the show’s success is the real dramatic and ground breaking story created between the songs; comic and tragic scenes that allow Daniel Evans’ smooth and driving direction, to work wonders, with his talented crew.

Led by ‘Captain Andy Hawks ‘(Malcolm Sinclair) and his soured wife ‘Parthy Ann’ (Lucy Briers) we are introduced to several other dynamic and often comic duos such as their daughter ‘Magnolia’ (Gina Beck) who falls in love with the rogue, ‘Gaylord Ravenal’ (Chris Peluso). They are closely followed by the larger than life and utterly beautiful ‘Queenie’ (Sandra Marvin) and her lazy but lovely ‘Joe’ (Emmanuel Kojo) along with the showbiz hunting ‘Ellie’ (Alex Young) and the tap dancing, floppy haired ‘Frank’ (Danny Collins).

We are teased, right from the start, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s well-known tunes, under the masterful musical direction of Tom Brady, and when they finally come on board, sung to their full glory by this glorious company, you can’t help but love 'em. Emmanuel Kojo’s ‘Ol’ Man River’ and the forever hummable ‘I can’t help lovin’ dat man’ by Rebecca Trehearn and Sandra Marvin are well worth the ticket price on their own. By the interval, I was glowing with warmth and utter admiration for this beautiful journey, and couldn’t wait for the second leg.

The reveal of Lez Brotherton’s showpiece boat earned a well-deserved applause, and Evans uses all hands and decks to display his theatrical artistry. Covering forty years in all, the catwalk of costumes and aged wigs add the fabulous finishing touches to this memorable musical drama, that changed the rules of musical history.

Daniel Evans, …I just can’t help lovin’ dat man’s work too! Chichester, here I come!

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