Thursday, 3 July 2014

Review | SHOW BOAT (Cape Town Opera) July 2014

Following the success of Porgy & Bess, Cape Town Opera return to Birmingham Hippodrome this week with their adaptation of the 1927 Broadway musical Show Boat, this incredible production received it's UK premiere tonight.

Set in America’s Deep South, the story begins in 1887 on the Cotton Blossom show boat as it sets sail on the Mississippi River and follows the lives of the performers, dock workers, musicians and stagehands over a period of forty years.

The piece has survived for over 80 years and another revival production is perhaps not what audiences are crying out for - but it should be. It's quite rare to see a musical of this scale - a cast of over 50, orchestra exceeding 30 combining to create a rather special, unique theatrical experience. For this is Cape Town Opera with an incredible South African cast.

This is a lavish production that looks beautiful, a stunning set design by Johan Engles is just the backdrop for an equally as impressive performance.  Graham Hopkins - one of South Africa's best-known actors stars as Captain Andy and is paired well with Anthea Thompson as Parthy. There is a beautiful bond between Magdalene Minnaar as Magnolia and Blake Fischer as Gaylord. Together they exude an uttermost joy. Fun is to be had aplenty whenever Catherine Daymond takes to the stage as Ellie who's Life Upon The Wicked Stage is a distinct highlight. Mention must also go to Nobuntu Mpahlaza who delights in every way as Queenie, also Angela Kerrison who is in fine voice as Julie.

The reason to remember your evening however has to be the many powerful renditions of Ol' Man River that bring the house down in the incredible hands of Otto Maidi. Even after hearing it twice and then three times, Maidi commands every ounce of attention as he bellows out that famous tune.

The whole evening is thoroughly enjoyable and you leave feeling warmed and welcomed, the overriding family themes and expressing of love is unavoidably infectious. This is a pure celebration of traditional vaudeville styles; a colourful explosion of jazz, opera, Charleston and the Black Bottom dance of the 1920's. It is joyous affair that entertains whilst being the first of it's kind to distinctly approach themes of racism against African-Americans, the homogenous opposition to inter-racial marriage. A triumphant transfer from native South Africa to selected cities in the UK, one that you must try to jump on board before it departs us.

See Show Boat at Birmingham Hippodrome until 5th July, book online here.

Watch a short film on the production here:

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