REVIEW: The Production Company’s SHOWBOAT

Difficult classic musical beautifully re-staged for modern audiences

By Narelle Wood

Off the back of Guys and Dolls, The Production Company have put together another brilliant production, this time bringing to the stage Show Boat, directed by Roger Hodgman.

Mostly set in the Deep South during the late 1800’s, the story follows the characters of the Show Boat over the best part of 30 years. The show mostly centres on the cautionary love story of Captain Andy’s daughter Magnolia (Alinta Chidzey) and the no-good-river-gambler Gaylord Ravenol (Gareth Keegan).

Showboat - Alinta Chidzey and Gareth Keegan

But the show is about more than just the clichéd moral tale for good girls who meet bad boys and fall in love at first sight. The setting also allows for exploration of race relationships, the changing nature of entertainment (especially with the advent of new technology) and, perhaps most poignantly, the idea that no matter how much things might change, things also stay very much the same.

Chidzey and Keegan were tremendous in their roles as Magnolia and Gaylord, although Chidzey’s wig did seem a little too blonde for her darker features. Philip Gould was charming as Captain Andy, who, along with Ellie May (Nicole Melloy) and Frank (Glenn Hill) brings much needed light-heartedness to temper the darker side of the show. Judith Roberts provided some straight-laced humour as Parthy, and the exceptionally strong cast is rounded off with Christina O’Neill as Julie, Heru Pinkasova as Queenie and Eddie Muliaumaseali’i as Joe. While the performances of all the cast members including the ensemble were brilliant, Muliaumaseali’i’s performance of Ol’ Man River gave me chills, and it can only be described as sublime.

My expectations of any show from The Production Company is extremely high and I never walk away disappointed. Once again the costuming was great, from the 1800’s dresses complete with bustles to the asymmetrical raised hemlines of the 1920’s. Hodgman cleverly addressed the need to have a boat on stage through some stunning use of digital imagery. And given that I overheard a number of people singing on the way out of the theatre, I’d say that the orchestra did a pretty good job too.

If you didn’t see Guys and Dolls then Show Boat is an absolute must; the production value is priceless, the performances flawless, and, once again, Muliaumaseali’i’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is something not to be missed.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Season: 21st to 23rd July 7.30pm, 20th August 1pm, 23rd August 2pm and 24th August 3pm.
Tickets: Full $48-$119 | Conc $24-$105
Bookings: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on

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