Show Boat’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Monday, October 5, 2015 By: Lori Speiser Source: NY Theatre Guide

First performed in 1927, Show Boat is a classic with beautiful music composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.  Westchester Broadway Theater’s interpretation, directed by Richard Stafford, definitely lives up to its history. The story is based on the bestselling book Show Boat written by Edna Ferber in 1926 and follows the life of Magnolia Hawks, portrayed tenderly here by Bonnie Fraser. She is the daughter of Captain Andy who runs the boat along with the shows they perform as they travel along the river. We follow Magnolia’s life, its highs and lows for 40 years; encountering many provocative themes along the way including racial prejudice and marital problems.

These serious themes were offset by the comedy prevalent throughout the play.  Jamie Ross, who portrayed Captain Andy, had me grinning every time he came on stage while Karen Murphy, as his wife Parthy, was amusingly cantankerous. Ellie May’s large personality was comically played by Amanda Pulcini without going over the top.

Effective use was made of the movable sets rising from the floor helping to transition the story locations, designed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. The two-story show boat looked terrific and the undulating lighting on the stage represented the moving river gently and effectively. Enough cannot be said about the wardrobes, also done by Bottari and Case.  An extensive number of costumes were used, changing styles appropriately as the years passed:  beautiful dresses, handsome suits with accurate details from spats to tie pins, wigs to ruffles, right down to the undergarments.

The music varies from enthusiastically fun, to softly melancholic.  I am sure you will be singing and humming some of the wonderful melodies days later. The number of good voices in this cast is truly impressive from the sweet high soprano of Bonnie Fraser (Magnolia) to the deep bass of Michael James Leslie (Joe) whose exceptional rendition of “Old Man River” had much of the audience on its feet.  John Preator’s (Gaylord Ravenal) smooth baritone, Sarah Hanlon’s (Julie Lavern) performance of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and Inga Ballard’s (Queenie) melancholy rendition of “Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun” were outstanding.

This performance of Show Boat is, pardon the pun, a boat load of fun.  Exuberant dancing numbers throughout, plenty of humor, incredibly well cast actors, and magnificent singers all added to the enjoyment of the story.

ThroughNovember 29th 2015. It will then return from December 30th 2015 to January 31st 2016.