Entertaining the Mississippi in Style with TPC’s Show Boat

The Production Company’s Show Boat has opened to great acclaim at the State Theatre for a limited run of one week. Featuring some phenomenal Australian talent and a revised plot, The Production Company has truly created a Show Boat for modern audiences which explores the pertinent theme of discrimination in a way that resonates with current theatregoers.

The Production Company's Showboat

The Production Company’s Showboat

Show Boat is hailed as the first of the contemporary musicals. It was the first to combine happy-go-lucky comedy while exploring the serious theme of racial discrimination in America’s South. It was also the first show where the characters, songs and storyline where completely interwoven and the songs were used to further the story and provide greater detail into the characters.

However, despite the incredible critical reception it received upon opening on Broadway, the show has come up against a certain issue when it comes to revivals. The original show was long. Full recordings of the entire original score, plus extra music written for the show, come in at over 220 minutes of music. While the original four and a half hour show may have provided audiences with plenty of entertainment, current audiences aren’t necessarily looking to journey through this marathon.

Over time, entertainment has become shorter. Full symphonies have been replaced by shorter albums which are presented in twelve easy listening songs. Movies rarely run longer than two hours and the predominant bulk of television shows grace our screens for less than an hour (unless it is a reality TV grand final which can go on forever!).

As a result of this changing audience expectation, the format of Show Boat has changed. The story has been tightened and the overall length has dropped considerably ending up at a similar running time as many other modern musicals. And this has resulted in the easily accessible production mounted by The Production Company.

When it comes to the actual performance of this accessible version, the actors shine. Leading players Alinta Chidzey (Magnolia Hawks) and Gareth Keegan (Gaylord Ravenal) give a wonderful performance as the two lovers especially as once Magnolia’s husband walks out on her leaving the care of their daughter in her hands. Eddie Muliaumaseali’I (Joe) provides the highlight for many audience members with his rendition of crowd-favourite ‘Ol’ Man River’ several times throughout the production. And Heru Pinkasova (Queenie), Philip Gould (Captain Andy Hawks) and Judith Roberts (Parthy Ann Hawks) all provide great moments of levity within the serious themes only to be outdone by the phenomenal comic duo of Glenn Hill (Frank Schultz) and Nicole Melloy (Ellie May Chipley).

Special mention must go to Christina O’Neill in the leading role of Julie Laverne as she grapples first hand with the social injustice of having mixed-race parents in a time when laws defiantly outlawed such partnerships. Always protecting Magnolia and providing great opportunities for her progression, Alinta Chidzey and Christina O’Neill provide these roles with great meaning highlighting the atrocities of racial discrimination.

These performances are accompanied by a great on-stage orchestra led superbly by Kellie Dickerson, some simple but striking sets and brilliantly bright costumes truly bringing these players out of the drab black and white history books and onto a modern stage.

The Production Company’s Show Boat is playing all week at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne and must close this Sunday. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.theproductioncompany.com.au/