BWW Review: SHOW BOAT at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater
Even though it's more than 90 years old, Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat still has a lot to say to a modern audience.. Themes of racism, prejudice, and martial discord are as relevant today as they were almost a century ago. Kudos to the recent Dutch Apple production, not only for bringing this classic work to their stage, but also for staying true to some of the uncomfortable language and themes embedded within the original script.
The show, itself, follows the lives of three generations of riverboat entertainers over the course of 40 years. Mike Brennan and Jennifer Hope play the show boat's owner, Captain Andy Hawks and his wife, Parthy. The two of them have good chemistry together, and bicker like a true married couple. Carin Lagerberg plays their daughter, Magnolia, who is thrust into the limelight early on, when some upsetting circumstances befall the ship's prior leading lady. Lagerberg's Magnolia evolves over the course of the show from a naïve girl to a confident entertainer to a down on her luck mother. She plays each stage with honesty and emotion.
Troy Bruchwalski stars as Gaylord Ravenal, the love interest and eventual leading man to Magnolia. Bruchwalski has a pleasing voice and a strong stage presence. Ravenal is a hard character for the audience to like or to trust based on what other characters say or know about him. However, Bruchwalski plays him with depth, and evokes some sympathy from this flawed protagonist.
Shuga Henry was an audience favorite as Queenie. She presents the character with humor and sass, and has a powerhouse voice. Marc-Anthony Lewis plays Joe, the man that Queenie "can't help lovin'". Lewis has a lush, bass voice that carries the show's most iconic song "Ol' Man River" (and its plethora of reprises).
JP Meyers leads a small, but impressive orchestra. I always appreciate when a theater chooses to put the musicians out front, rather than hide them in the back and pipe in the sound by microphone. The score always seems more raw and immediate, which I think, are compliments for a live production.
Show Boat is a compelling story and includes several well-known and well-loved songs. The themes of racism and discrimination are handled honestly. I applaud the producers' decision to challenge both the actors and audience with more sophisticated subject matter. Come see Show Boat at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater and stimulate your brain, heart, and stomach all in one night!
Show Boat runs now through April 28. Tickets and more information can be found at their website, https://dutchapple.com/