Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Show Boat' Dazzles with Show-Stopping Singing and Dancing Hal Prince's New Staging Seems Utterly Contemporary in Its Style and Concerns

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Show Boat' Dazzles with Show-Stopping Singing and Dancing Hal Prince's New Staging Seems Utterly Contemporary in Its Style and Concerns

Article excerpt

SHOW BOAT Music by Jerome Kern. Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Directed by Harold Prince. At the Gershwin Theater.

IT is no small irony that the first and one of the most important theatrical events of the fall Broadway season is a revival of the musical that virtually redefined the form: Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "Show Boat," which is now nearly seven decades old.

"Show Boat" is hardly a neglected musical. The most recent Broadway revival was a mere 11 years ago, and it was even performed in the same theater - but it's the kind of show that needs to be seen every generation or so, just so audiences will be reminded of its complexity, of its greatness. With all of the revolutions in musical theater in this century, it is amazing that this show seems utterly contemporary in its style and concerns, particularly in the powerful new staging by Hal Prince.

Much has been made of the oversized dimensions of this revival, which began in Toronto. Its elements include a cast of more than 70, huge sets, more costumes than one can possibly imagine, and a precedent-setting new top Broadway ticket price of $75. But the show actually seems quite intimate in this production, due in no small part to Prince's concentration on the humanity of the characters, and on the sociological aspects of the text, particularly the theme of miscegenation. The story is sprawling and at times quite fuzzy, but the relationships come through clearly. Thanks to sensitive performances by Gretha Boston as Queenie, John McMartin as Cap'n Andy, Elaine Stritch as Parthy, Marc Jacoby as Gaylord Ravenal, and Rebecca Luker as Magnolia, this is a "Show Boat" populated by characters we care about.

Even more powerful is Lonette McKee as Julie (a role for which she received a Tony nomination in the last revival). …

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