Feature

Show Boat

Show Boat almost begs for an operatically scaled production, and director Francesca Zambello obliges.

Lyric Opera of Chicago(312) 332-2244

***

“It’s high time to lay to rest the shopworn canard” that works of musical theater are too lowbrow for opera performers, said John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. No other musical is better suited to refute this myth than Show Boat: The 1927 show set the benchmark for all musical theater to come, as its memorable Jerome Kern–Oscar Hammerstein songs spring directly from a narrative about “broken hearts and conflicted ambitions” among passengers on a Mississippi riverboat. Show Boat almost begs for an operatically scaled production, and Francesca Zambello obliges with a handsome staging that “integrates trained operatic voices, musical comedy singers, and a pride of Chicago actors and dancers.”

Some performers adapt better than others to the show’s demands, said Scott Morgan in the Chicago Daily Herald. A few of these singers make the dialogue sound “halting and wooden”: Baritone Nathan Gunn, for one, possesses the “leading-man looks and honeyed voice” needed to play suave gambler Gaylord Ravenal, but Gunn musters only lackluster romantic chemistry with fellow lead Ashley Brown. Soprano Alyson Cambridge, by contrast, is an “alluring” Julie LaVerne, star of the boat’s theater troupe, while bass Morris Robinson delivers an “Ol’ Man River” that’s “unquestionably” a highlight of the evening. In fact, the music proves to be Show Boat’s true star. As the orchestra “floats along heavenly from one musical high point to another,” it’s enough to silence even the most die-hard opera purists.

Recommended

The Kennedy solution to the Ukraine crisis
President Biden.
Picture of Joel MathisJoel Mathis

The Kennedy solution to the Ukraine crisis

U.K. official Allegra Stratton resigns
U.K. government spokesperson Allegra Stratton.
'profound apologies'

U.K. official Allegra Stratton resigns

U.K. joins U.S. in Olympics diplomatic boycott
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Winter Olympics 2022

U.K. joins U.S. in Olympics diplomatic boycott

Britain's government is teetering over an alleged 2020 Christmas party
Boris Johnson
'it was cheese and wine'

Britain's government is teetering over an alleged 2020 Christmas party

Most Popular

Kathy Griffin slams CNN for firing her but not Jeffrey Toobin
Kathy Griffin
'I loved that gig'

Kathy Griffin slams CNN for firing her but not Jeffrey Toobin

Mace vs. Greene is the fight for the future of the GOP
Mace and Greene.
Picture of W. James Antle IIIW. James Antle III

Mace vs. Greene is the fight for the future of the GOP

Ex-D.C. Guard official pens accusatory Jan. 6 memo
Jan. 6 riot.
after Jan. 6

Ex-D.C. Guard official pens accusatory Jan. 6 memo