“Show Boat”


*****The Lyric Opera , in trying to reach new audiences, is now trying to bring large scale musicals to its stage and their current production, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammersein II’s classic,”Showboat” is a masterpiece of a production.

Boat This is a musical ( based on the novel by Edna Ferber) was a groundbreaking musical- in the days when the stage musical was light and frothy, “Showboat” spoke to social issues that had never been done in a musical before. It was a musical that was very close to an American Opera with subject matter that was different from the norm. This was created in 1927 and deals with a “Showbaot”  as we follow the lives of theater folk along the Mississippi River. We learn about those who work on the boat as well as the actors duing a changing time in our country, both socially and racially.

This production is spectacle from start to finish and I must tell you that the three hour total production is by far the fastest three hours you will ever experience in any theater as the dazzling set ( Peter  J. Davison) including a four story boat and an even more dazzling cast of players, under the direction of Francesca Zambello, make this story come alive. One would have to say that the only problem with this show has to be that the opera house is not geared for dialogue and so, with the adding of body mikes, so we can hear the actors, the sound doesn’t quite meet the standards we are used to in our regular theaters. This aside, this is a memorable experience for old and young- one that is worth the costly ticket price as this star studded cast fills the wonderful Lyric Opera House of Chicago with radiant music- songs like,”Make Believe”, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”, “You Are Love” ,”Why Do I Love You?”, “Bill”,”After The Ball” and of course, the show stopping “Ol’ Man River” ( Morris Robinson is one voice that can be heard clear as a bell- he is worth the price of admission just for this song)!

This sensational cast is led by Ashley Brown as Magnolia, the young girl who falls in love with the drifter/gambler Gaylord Ravenal ( the incredible Nathan Gunn) who for awhile is the “leading man” in the melodramas seen aboard the Riverboat, The Cotton Blossom). Her parents are played by local favorites, Ross Lehman ( at his very best ) and Cindy Gold. In fact, one might look at this cast lits as some great opera singers and an assortment of actors from Marrott Lincolnshire,Drury Lane ,Chicago Shakespeare,Steppenwolf and assorted local theaters- Ericka Mac, Renee Matthews, John Lister,James Farruggio,Brian McCaskill and the incredible Bernie Yvon who has been on the Lyric stage before as song and dance man Frank Schultz.  Angela Renee Simpson is dynamite as Queenie and Alyson Cambridge  brings a realistic look to Julie. The combination of cast members from different backgrounds is well blended by Zambello and Choreographer Michelle Lynch. In fact, the entire staff of this production should be applauded for the teamwork that helps to create a special event such as this, a theatrical and musical experience that will last with you for years to come.

This is a marvelously told story about love and how it can change the course of one’s life. We also watch as love can destroy the same people that it drew together and yet in the end, despite all the setbacks in life, we find that love can conquer all. A well told story with social relevance for its time and perhaps may be so, even today! I know that the ticket prices are a bit high for a production so gigantic as this, but there are tickets available for as low as $54, and being a once in a life time experience, this may be a place where you give up that dinner out for a lasting memory.

The performance schedule is a bit different from a play where there are 7 or 8 per week. The production schedule for “Show Boat” is as follows:

Friday,February 17th at 7:30 p.m.,

Saturday,February 18th at 7:30 p.m.,

Wednesday,February 22nd at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday,February  25th at 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday,February 28th at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday,March 1st at 2 p.m.

Friday ,March 2nd at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday,March 7th at 2 p.m.

Friday,March 9th at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday,March 14th at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 17th at 7:30 p.m.

To order your tickets ( and I suggest you pick a date as soon as possible) call 312-332-2244  ext  5600 or visit www.lyricopera.org/tickets

The building is located at 20 N. Wacker Drive with its entrance at Madison and Wacker and there are some dining spots available in the building- you will find them on the website www.lyricopera.org