Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tales of the River Bank; THEATRE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tales of the River Bank; THEATRE

Article excerpt

Byline: FIONA MOUNTFORD

Show Boat

Albert Hall ***

IF YOU like your boats showy, here is the place to drop anchor over the next 11 days.

This spectacular in-the-round production is not, it can safely be said, your average evening of musical theatre. For a start, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provides the accompaniment.

There is a cast of what seems like thousands, but is actually 71, plus assorted children. And from somewhere inside all this hoo-ha, an intimate human story of endurance and betrayal struggles to emerge.

The first few minutes are a baffling kaleidoscope, as actors keep baling cotton and rhubarbing and pulling each other's focus like there's no business like show business.

Slowly, the subjects of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's era-defining 1927 work emerge: the Hawkes family and assorted other entertainers who ply their trade on the titular tug.

The opening lines of song - "Coloured folks work on the Mississippi/ While the white folks play" - threaten to provide a strong statement of dramatic intent. …

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