It is truly gratifying to experience a quintessential musical like Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's Tony-winning, Showboat -- especially when it has a great cast like CM PAC's current production. Initially presented in 1927, this Noel Ruiz directed production has performances through May 20th. The story follows the lives of the patrons of the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River performance boat over a span of nearly fifty years as they endure the trials of everlasting love and racial prejudice.
Leading this wonderful cast was Jennifer Hope as Magnolia. Ms. Hope played Magnolia with a head-strong personality, but embraced her vulnerable side as well. Chakira Iliana stunningly portrayed another one of the leading ladies, Magnolia's best friend, Julie. Ms. Iliana had a gorgeous voice and gave a beautifully heart-wrenching performance.
Magnolia's fierce nature shined as she refused pretty much anything her parents or friends suggested to her. This included falling for Ravenal (Robert Murphy). Being from a wealthy family, Magnolia married Ravenal and moved out of state. They became broke due to Ravenal's gambling, which later resulted in him leaving Magnolia and their daughter because he couldn't support them any longer. Years later, they reconcile.
Julia's story was very intense and Ms. Iliana handled it with panache. Showboat depicts bigotry of the worse kind, to the point where Julia and her fiancé face the possibility of arrest because she is a "mixed race" woman and he is Caucasian. Their relationship was socially unacceptable at that time.
You couldn't help but smile when Anthony Stopanio, who portrayed Cap'n Andy, was on stage. He had such energy and witty quips throughout the show, and was continually answered by roaring laughter from the audience. Perhaps, his funniest moments were his comments about his neurotic wife, Parthy, portrayed fantastically by Deborah Linneman.
Additionally, Amanda Camille-Isaac was also wonderful as Queenie. Her matter-of-fact sassy attitude was a great take on the part. Her performance of "Queenie's Ballyhoo" was one of the most entertaining as it was meant to excite people for the performances on the Cotton Blossom. Another one of her performances, "Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'", was also one of the more emotional songs which tells about inevitable doom.
Debbie Parker did a dazzling job with the costumes for the cast. The gowns and tuxedos (complete with top hats) made it seem as if everyone was in a picture from the 1920's. The set was also beautifully elaborate. The many scene changes, nine in the first act and seven in the second act, made great use of the small space.
The music was absolutely beautiful as well. There were thirteen numbers in the first act and fourteen numbers in the second act. This would have some out of breath, but not this cast. One of the most fun numbers was the "Cap'n Andy's Balloyhoo" where Captain Andy introduces the performers on the Showboat to the patrons. Also among the audience favorites was the classic "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" which was sung beautifully by Julie, Queenie, Magnolia, and the rest of the company. At the close of the first act, Magnolia and Ravenal gave a beautiful rendition of "You Are Love".
For a classic piece of theatre that is wonderfully told, Showboat at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, Long Island, is the place to be. Now playing through May 20th, the community gets to experience a historical piece that hasn't been done on Broadway in almost twenty years.
Showboat is presented by the CM Performing Arts Center of Oakdale, Long Island. Music by Jerome Kern, Book and Lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II, Produced and Directed by Noel Ruiz, Technical Direction by Mark Decaterina, Stage Manager is Brendan Noble, Lighting Design by Michael Kaufman, Sound Design by Don Hanna, Costume Design by Debbie Parker, Choreography by Ryan Nolin, Musical Direction Christopher Mckee. Now playing through May 20th, please call 631-218-2810 or visit cmpac.com for more information.