The 1927 musical Show Boat has sailed into the West End several times over the past century and most recently had a successful run at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre before transferring to its new home at the New London Theatre. It tells the story of performers on a Mississippi show boat and spans more than forty years dealing with issues of racism, alcoholism, love and relationships.
The huge cast of this show are what keeps things interesting. Led by the always beautiful sounding Gina Beck (as Magnolia) and recent Miss Saigon star Chris Peluso (as Gaylord) these two lovers bring the music to life and are wonderful to watch. Rebecca Trehearn really stands out in this show and raises the roof in her solo number ‘Bill’. Alex Young (as Ellie May) and Sandra Marvin (as Queenie) also give great performances.
The classic songs that everyone will know from this show, ‘Ol’ Man River’ and ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man’ are beautifully performed, although a little over-used and reprised several times throughout the show. Other numbers were a little slow and forgettable and the only tunes being hummed on exiting the show were the obvious crowd pleasers.
The New London Theatre is slightly hidden away from the hub of West End theatres and so attracting audiences off of the street can be difficult. Whilst Show Boat is a classic musical, just how many people will want to flock to see it in 2016, I am not sure of. Sadly, for me it was too slow and old fashioned for today’s audiences and the very basic storyline didn’t have me on the edge of my seat.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Johan Persson
Show Boat is playing at the New London Theatre until 7 January 2017