★★★★ | Showboat

It’s a show that’s older than you and me. It’s a show that has stood the test of time. It’s ‘Showboat‘ and its back in London.

Credit – Johan Persson

Now playing at London’s New London Theatre on Drury Lane, it’s a spectacular recreation of the show that had its first performance in 1927 in New York, staged by Oscar Hammerstein II. Yes, that’s how old this show is, almost a century, and it’s new production shows that ‘Showboat’ has got sea legs.

If you don’t know the story, ‘Showboat’ is a show that is made of two parts. The first part is where we get introduced to the boat (called ‘Cotton Blossom’ which is spectacularly recreated on stage), it’s a boat that’s used to put on shows. It’s captained by Andy Hawks (Malcolm Sinclair) with a cast of whites and a crew of blacks. Captain Hawks’ single and carefree daughter Magnolia (Gina Beck) works on the boat, and it’s there where she meets and falls for the handsome yet mysterious Gaylord Ravenal (Chris Peluso). They get married and eventually have a daughter, but it’s the second act that gets dark. You see, Gaylord’s a gambling addict, can’t control his addiction, and can’t support his family, especially after they move to Chicago and have a baby girl. The lifestyle they knew and loved on the boat becomes a distant memory. As the years roll on, she and Gaylord split, and he disappears. But eventually her family and friends rally around her. It’s all told in great musical style with a cast that has loads of talent.

The original London production opened in May, 1928 at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane. It came back in 1971, and then again in 1998 at the Prince Edward Theatre. There was a short-lived production in 2006 at the Royal Albert Hall, and now it’s back for a new generation to see and it has not lost its life.

Classic songs such as ‘Ol’ Man River’ (sung by Emmanuel Kojo) to ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man’ (sung by an ensemble of the woman) are given new life by the singers. It’s the very talented cast, chief among them Beck, Peluso, and Danny Collins as a fellow performer, and Sinclair, who stand out.

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Masterfully directed by Daniel Evens, with lots of great musical numbers including entire ensemble dance routines, this ‘Showboat’ is a must see, especially in the New London Theatre where every seat in the house is a good seat.

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Showboat plays at the New London Theatre

About the author: Tim Baros
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.