BWW Reviews: SHOW BOAT A Magnificent Time at Music Circus
I cannot imagine a better production. With Broadway talent of operatic caliber and Glenn Casale's all-encompassing direction, this summer's Sacramento Musical Theatre production of "Show Boat" is Music Circus at its absolute best.
Much like its namesake, the musical offers a grand show for its audience, with sweeping tunes by Jerome Kern and wooing lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Casale's direction adds welcome moments of humor in the epic drama, especially when Queenie (a personable Sharon Wilkins) comes around with her teasing, sassy attitude in a memorable first act rendition of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." Well-timed moments of joy and dance come during this scene and others, including a fabulously choreographed second act "Kim's Charleston."
The talented ensemble also lends its voice to beautiful, haunting melodies such as the opening "Cotton Blossom" and first act "Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'." But nothing beats Philip Boykin's smooth bass baritone voice drifting over the musical's famous anthem, "Ol' Man River." Applause thundered after the Tony Award nominee's opening night performance.
A trio of "Phantom of the Opera" alumni leads the rest of the cast. Jennifer Hope Wills successfully navigates Magnolia's journey from youthful romantic to hopeful and proud adult, and never have clearer high notes been so perfectly sung. Ron Bohmer plays Magnolia's love interest, Ravenal, a gentleman with a gambling problem. Bohmer's Ravenal is the Rhett Butler of musical theatre. He simultaneously courts the audience with his immediately striking vocals and his Southern charm. Magnolia's father, the captain of the Cotton Blossom show boat, ultimately encourages the match of his daughter with Ravenal. George Lee Andrews bubbles with amiability in the role. In one of the show's most memorable moments, Andrews' energy rises as circumstances force the captain to act out the rest of a show boat skit on his own.
In smaller, but no less important roles are the spirited Nikki Crawford as Julie, a songstress forced to leave the show boat after her African-American heritage is revealed, and the comedic duo Ellie and Frank, played by Jennifer Cody and Jamie Torcellini. Disney fans will easily recognize Cody's character voice from her role as Charlotte in the film, "The Princess and the Frog."
Dennis Castellano leads the as-always flawless orchestra through the three hours of gorgeous music and enchanting stories.
Through July 14