TheatreZone Announces Principal Cast For SHOW BOAT

Principal cast for Show Boat Announced

Lyrical masterpiece calls for 40+-person cast and 17-piece live orchestra

More than 60 theatre and opera hopefuls auditioned for 40 roles in the classic operetta Show Boat says TheatreZone Artistic Director Mark Danni. Based on Edna Ferber's novel, Show Boat chronicles life and loves of the three generations of show folk on the Mississippi.

Today, Danni and Opera Naples Artistic Director Steffanie Pearce announced the principal casting for Show Boat, the inaugural joint production between the Equity professional theatre company TheatreZone and Opera Naples, at the Naples High School Auditorium Nov. 5 and Nov. 6.

"The cast must bridge operetta and contemporary musical theatre and that calls for a mixture of experienced actors, opera singers and dancers," reports Danni, who marks his musical, directing and conducting debut with Opera Naples. "Much of the beautiful Jerome Kern music, such as "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" comes straight from the nineteenth century operetta and grand opera," he adds.

Baritone John Brandon from the North Carolina Opera and the Nashville Opera makes his Opera Naples debut in the lead role of handsome riverboat gambler Gaylord Ravenal. Brandon has performed with some of the world's leading vocal ensembles including the Kammerchor Stuttgart, English Voices, and Westminster Choir in addition to his opera stage work.

Female lead soprano Julie-Anne Hamula debuts as ingénue Magnolia Hawks, a lovely 18-year old aspiring performer and daughter of Cap'n Andy (Frederick Reeder) and his wife Parthy Ann (Debi Guthery).

The pivotal role of Joe, the stevedore who sings "Ol' Man River," will feature Opera Naples favorite Ashley Howard Wilkinson. Wilkinson's portrayals of King Balthezar in November '06, Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Bonz in February '07, Madame Butterfly and Sparafucile in Rigoletto, March ‘09 earned him the coveted role.

Baritone Frederick Reeder, called "a singing actor of genius" by noted music critic Donald Rosenburg, has been cast as showboat impresario Cap'n Andy Hawks, owner of the Cotton BlossoM. Reeder, who trained for the classical stage at The Drama Studio in London, England, is highly acclaimed for his characterizations in the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan. During five years as principal comic baritone with Ohio Light Opera, Reeder performed in legendary roles such as Zsupan in The Gypsy Baron, The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, Despard in Ruddigore and Pooh-Bah in The Mikado. Recently he staged and performed Gilbert & Sullivan productions for the Grant Park Festival in Chicago and frequently serves as stage and/or music director for Ashland University Theatre in his hometown of Ashland, Ohio.

Beloved TheatreZone favorites, actor Larry Alexander (Anatoly in Chess, Guido in Nine, Tony in Copacabana, Padre in Man Of LaMancha, Billy in No, No, Nanette and the Narrator in Blood Brothers opposite Andrea McArdle) and actress, singer, dancer Karen Molnar (Luisa in Nine, Lucille in No, No, Nanette, Svetlana in Chess, Emma in Jekyll & Hyde, Pam in Baby, Monica in I Love My Wife, etc.) have been cast in the roles of Frank Schultz and Ellie May Chipley, the vaudevillian entertainment team that earns their living on the riverboat.

Newcomers Christina Zimmer, Palm Beach Opera, and John Mackerrow, local actor and founder of Shakespeare in Paradise professional theatre company in Naples, are cast as lovebirds Julie and Steve.

Joyce Austin will play the featured role of Queenie, the African-American cook and Joe's wife, who sings Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man. Ms. Austin is well known from her Indianapolis Opera performances including its production of "Porgy and Bess" in 2000, and "Aida" 2001, as well as "Don Pasquale", and "The Elixir of Love" all at Indianapolis's famous Clowes Memorial Hall theatre at Butler University.

The primary plot follows Magnolia, the naive daughter of the showboat captain, as she marries a gambler and moves with him to Chicago. His gambling continues as his debts compound, and soon he deserts her and their young daughter.

A subplot concerns the potential arrest of Magnolia's selfless best friend on charges of miscegenation when it's discovered that she is mulatto, and her subsequent downward spiral into despair. The passing of time reunites Magnolia and her now-grown daughter with her family on the showboat as well as with her husband, who eventually returns offering a hopeful second chance at familial fulfillment.

Danni will direct, choreography by Karen Molnar, Music Direction by Robin Frank and Mark Danni, and orchestra conducted by Mark Danni.

Show Boat plays November 5 at 2 pm and 8 pm, and November 6 at 3 pm. Tickets are on sale now. Call Opera Naples at (239) 963-9050 or visit  

About TheatreZone

In 2005, non-profit TheatreZone was born on two concepts: an affinity and nostalgia for the stage, and for the intimacy of live audiences. Co-founders artistic director Mark Danni and his wife, actress/choreographer Karen Molnar shared a vision and a passion to bring equity professional actors, and produce talented and innovative productions of classic "lost treasures of Broadway" and original, commissioned new plays and musicals with an eye towards future Broadway, Off Broadway and regional productions.

Upcoming Season 7 productions include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Dec. 1-11, 2011); Company (Jan. 5-15, 2012); Little Women (March 8-18, 2012) and The Boyfriend (May 3-13, 2012).

TheatreZone 2011-2012 season tickets (four shows) cost $182 and individual seats costs $43 - $48 plus a $2 per ticket fee. A mini series (3 shows) and group rates are also available.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call TheaterZone at 1-888-ZONE-FLA , 1-888-966-3352 or purchase online


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From This Author Beau Higgins

Currently spending his time between New York and Florida, Beau was born to a theatrical family in Brooklyn. He studied drama at the Lee Strasberg (read more...)

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