Canal Street Online Manchester

Show Boat at the Lowry

On Tuesday evening your Canal Street Correspondent came aboard the Show Boat Cotton Blossom, which swapped the river dock in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1887, for Salford Quays on a balmy summers evening.

The Lowry is one of only three UK venues, to stage this production by Cape Town Opera.

Created in 1927, based on the novel by Edna Ferber with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; Show Boat is one of the first American musicals ever written.

Taking place over fifty years, the plot is rich with nostalgia, humour, love stories and is peppered with memorable melodies including 'Ol' Man River' and 'Can't Help Lovin Dat Man'.

The story is of a showboat acting family and their struggles with gambling, race, infidelity, and poverty. In the beginning of the show, Captain Andy runs an extremely successful show on his ship 'The Cotton Blossom'.

Unfortunately, after it is discovered that his leading lady, Julie, is part black, she and her leading man boyfriend are forced to quit the show. As a replacement, Captain Andy uses his daughter, Magnolia, and a young gambler, Gaylord Ravenal. Magnolia and Gaylord soon fall in love but they must struggle with poverty and Gaylord's infidelity.

The production is traditional in feel, balancing the glamour and flourish of a big family musical but with a story that highlights the real life and racial struggles of black river worker. Particularly poignant given Cape Town Opera's South African base and work with gifted young African singers, many of whom come from South Africa's poorest communities.

In this rarely performed musical Janice Honeyman has done an impressive job of bringing back to life this classic almost 90 years after its creation.

Otto Maidi as Joe steels the show with the haunting 'Ol' Man River'. Similarly soprano Robin Botha as Magnolia shares the limelight.  The set and costumes are impressive.

With this production of Show Boat being so packed with talent, the ensemble singing particularly is truly superb to the extent that it is obvious why Cape Town Opera were winners of the Best International Opera Chorus at the 2013 International Opera Awards.

Don't miss the Boat, a Show well worth seeing.

'Show Boat' runs to Saturday 12 July at The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays tickets are by clicking available here

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