Take a trip on Crucible’s Showboat

Alex Young as Ellie May Chipley, Danny Collins as Frank Schultz in Show Boat.

Alex Young as Ellie May Chipley, Danny Collins as Frank Schultz in Show Boat.

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Classic musicals seem to be proving just a popular as traditional panto fare around the region, writes Tony Spittles.

Leicester’s Curve is currently taking audiences back in time to Victorian London in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! with Peter Polycarpou (Miss Saigon, Birds of a Feather and Evita) as the scheming Fagin.

This song-filled feast is proving so popular that it has been extended by another week to Saturday, January 23, which is also the case at Sheffield’s Crucible, where there are seven more days of sailing for that all-time favourite Show Boat.

Now 90 years young, this Kern and Hammerstein show-stopper shows it is still steaming along effortlessly in top gear with a talented team, both on stage and behind the scenes, giving new life to the enduring story of the lives and loves of three generations of travelling performers aboard a show boat as its brings live theatre to audiences along the Mississippi River.

The main themes of Edna Ferber’s 1926 novel - alcoholism, racial tension, unhappy marriages and gambling - are not forgotten as the story moves from page to stage, but what stands out in this all-singing, all-dancing production are songs galore, many of which linger long after the show closes.

This is more than evident from the start as the show boat’s owner, Capt Andy (Allan Corduner, just at home on the big screen in Topsy Turvy and Vera Drake as on TV in Midsomer Murders and more serious stuff in Homeland,) welcomes everyone aboard on an eventful journey which, over the years, see his daughter, Magnolia (Gina Becks), fall for the charms of wandering, boozy gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Michael Xavier).

Their on-off relationship, in good times and bad, carries the story along to the accompaniment of such memorable numbers as Only Make Believe, You Are Love and Why Do I Love You?

Fellow passenger Julie LaVerne (Rebecca Trehearn), whose mixed-race marriage brings her to the attention of the law, gets to sing one of the most spine-tingling numbers in the show - Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man - in the company of Queenie (Sandra Marvin), Magnolia and Joe (Emmanuel Kojo), straight after Joe had given a standout performance of the classic Ol’ Man River.

His vocal talents, which show great promise, seemed equally at home in a domestic setting in his wistful exchange with his spouse, Queenie, as they looked back on a long life together in I Still Suits Me.

However, such marital bliss proved more elusive for Capt Andy as he tried to make the best of being married to his prissy, shrewish wife, Parthy (Parthenia) - one of the major, non-singing roles - played to perfection by Lucy Briers, daughter of the late Richard Briers.

If you only make one New Year resolution, then make sure you book a trip aboard the Show Boat, which will be making its last trip on Saturday, January 23. Further details of show times and ticket prices, £20 to £35, can be obtained from the Crucible’s box office on 0114-249-6000, or via the website at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Photo by Johan Persson