BWW Reviews: SHOWBOAT at Westchester Broadway Theatre
Richard Stafford, utilizing the conceived production from the Goodspeed Opera House, has directed, and choreographed a tight show. The show was slimmed down to be able to get to the heart of the show with less busyness on stage. With the eye-popping costumes and set design by Michael Bottari and Ron Case, the stage is a sight to behold.
From the opening number "Cotton Blossom" with the ensemble cast, the stage explodes with color and enthusiasm. Immediately, Jamie Ross as Cap'n Andy commands the stage with presence and energy. He introduces the riverboat performers and his feisty wife Parthy Hawks, played by Karen Murphy.
Of course, what everyone is waiting for is "Old Man River" the anthem about the Mississippi River and how it rolls along - completely oblivious to the human spirit. Michael James Leslie as Joe sings it with heartfelt conviction and a powerhouse basso-profundo tambor. The ovation from the audience stopped the show for a few minutes.
The couples who lead the plot are perfectly cast. Bonnie Frasier as Magnolia Hawks is a throwback to the leading ladies of the past. She is a gifted singer with "bell-like" high notes and an ability to play the character authentically at different ages. John Preator as Gaylord Ravenal has great chemistry with her and they sing the duets, "Make Believe," "You are Love," and "Why Do I Love You" with passion and impressive technique. Amanda Pulcini as Ellie May Chipley and Daniel Scott Walton as Frank Schulz, provide the comic relief with a show stopping second act dance "Goodbye My Lady Love," thanks to the innovative choreography by Ryan Edward Wise.
Sarah Hanlon as Julie LaVerne and Eric Briarley as Steve Baker capture the pain in their unfortunate romance. Ms. Hanlon is a beautiful presence on stage and completely exposes her pain in her Act Two number "Bill" with a beautiful mezzo-rounded tone.Showboat at Westchester Broadway Theatre is truly worth seeing. Ryan Edward Wise musically directed and orchestrated the score to sound like an orchestra and a cast of thousands. With its tight sound design by Jonathan Hatton and Mark Zuckerman, one can really understand the words and orchestrations. Showboat is not to be missed! It will reaffirm your love for the golden age of musicals
First of all, there is the score. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II composed an operatic masterpiece with legitimate melodies and glorious orchestrations. Listening to the score brings one back to a time when singers sang without the luxury of a microphone and where the action alternated between comedy and tragedy, without being maudlin. Westchester Broadway Theatre took on quite a task in reviving such an ambitious production in the "theatre-in-the-round" space, but happily, it works!