The other day, I was kindly invited to watch Show Boat, one of the latest musical productions to hit the West End theaters. There’s nothing quite like a good mid-week spectacle to break the monotonous routine of work, and actually enjoy something prior to Friday night.
While Show Boat is a newcomer to the London scene, it is a stage classic which first appeared on Broadway in 1927, and was subject to many film adaptations over the year. After a few months up in Sheffield, it’s finally come to a proper city 😉
The story takes place at the turn of the 20th century, in the Deep South state of Mississippi. It takes place across a 40 year period (don’t worry, the show’s shorter than that) mostly aboard The Cotton Blossom which is, you guessed it, a show boat.
Show Boat tackles the serious issues which characterized early 1900s America, including race relations, gender equality and addiction. It is an upbeat and emotional production, yet it doesn’t shy away from portraying the harsh reality of everyday life through the artistic lens of music, and the theme of love.
I had a really good evening. Most of the songs including “Ol’ Man River”, “Why Do I Love You?” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” are pretty catchy and occasionally touching. The cast were really good, with Gina Beck’s character Magnolia and Chris Peluso’s Galyord (don’t laugh) enjoying convincing chemistry on stage and great vocals.
Rebecca Trehearn was my favourite as Julie, though it was a shame to see her go missing during much of the second act. One of my favourite scenes took place near the end of the show, as Magnolia makes her stage debut in a popular Chicago venue. Amid public booing, she is cheered on by her father and eventually overcomes her stage nerves.
The final parts jump to the post-WWI era, and sees all the main protagonist return 30 years older. Most come back with a grey wig or a walking stick, which is actually quite funny. The show ends on a nostagic note as old faces meet again – although it’s quite unclear how Gaylord’s character, who walked out on his family, gets such a warm welcome!
We attended the show at the New London Theatre, a relatively small venue which made the production all the more intimate. We had great seat, close to the stage but not right at the front, so we never had to look up to the performers.
Show Boat is on at the New London Theatre from Tuesdays-Saturdays, with shows at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Nearest tube station Holborn. Go check it out!