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Theatre Review: Showboat at the Depot Theatre

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Showboat, the current offering at the Depot Theatre in Westport, NY, runs through September 4. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

The highlight of any production of SHOW BOAT is the score with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. Since its first performance in 1927 these songs have become part of our social fabric - "Make Believe", "Ol' Man River", "Bill" - the list goes on. The book, also by Oscar Hammerstein, was revolutionary for its time, dealing as it does with miscegenation, and it still packs a dramatic punch. SHOW BOAT was the first Broadway musical to break out of the light operetta mode into a more serious plot, but it's the music that keeps people coming back.

There are some strong voices in this cast, as well as some good actors. Pamela Brumley shines as Magnolia. She not only has a lovely voice, but she's a strong actress, especially in the more serious scenes in Act II. As Ravenal, Jeremiah Davis matches her vocally, but needs more seasoning as an actor.

Silva Mateosian gives a terrific performance as Julie. She's a powerful actress and her rendition of "Bill" is one of the show's highlights. As Queenie, Taifa Harris is also very strong. I particularly liked her in "Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'."

Shannon Polly as Ellie and Randy Charleville as Frank are both excellent as the show boat's song and dance team. Miss Polly does a nice job in "Life Upon the Wicked Stage", and Mr. Charleville is especially good in the Act II nightclub scene with Magnolia.

As Joe, Horace E. Smith does a good job with "Ol' Man River". The duet and trio sections are especially effective. John Moss as Cap'n Andy is hilarious acting out the melodrama, but I found the rest of his performance overly mannered physically and rather superficial.

The two big weaknesses in the cast are Laura Gillis as Parthay and Amy Fitts as Kim. Miss Gillis gives a flat one-note performance, while Miss Fitts over-plays the character and can't seem to perform without her mouth wide open. Neither character is believable.

Norma Curley does her usual excellent job with the music, although the lyrics of the opening number got a bit lost. Laurie Brongo's choreography is very good, especially for "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and Frank and Ellie's smashing duet "Good-bye My Lady Love". The time-passing montage is inventive, and the highlight is the jive section, very well-danced by Andrew Jackson and Ebony Turner.

Chris Clavelli's set is simple and flexible, providing well for the many scene changes. Jean Brookman's period costumes are very good, including the many wigs, and James Coleman's lighting is effective, especially in helping to define the many playing areas.

Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh's direction and staging is good and keeps the pace moving. Act II in particular flows almost cinematically through the many scenes and time changes.

This production of SHOW BOAT provides a good afternoon or evening's entertainment. It's well-staged and the cast does justice to all the great songs.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre's production of SHOW BOAT gets four and one fourth box cars. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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