Set in 1887 on Mississippi River show boat the Cotton Blossom, then fast forwarding after the interval to Chicago to whizz thorough another forty years, Daniel Evans’ beautifully sung revival boasts a host of glorious voices and a faultless chorus of show folk and stevedores. They may not be the biggest names on the West End stage, but they sure as hell deliver.
Malcolm Sinclair makes every line count as sympathetic, henpecked Captain Andy who finds himself in urgent need of a couple of new stars when the racial origins of his leading lady (Rebecca Trehearn’s Julie, who beautifully delivers both the hauntingly catchy Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man with the rest of the cast and, solo, the emotive Bill) are exposed. His daughter Magnolia (Gina Beck – lovely) is ready to step into her friend’s showbiz shoes – especially when he persuades Chris Peluso’s handsome gambler and inveterate drifter Gaylord Ravenal to play opposite her.
credit: Johan Perssoni
Emmanuel Kojo brings a remarkably rich and powerful voice to Ol’ Man River, Sandra Marvin’s strong-minded Queenie conveys deep-running emotion in Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’ and we just don’t get to see enough of Danny Collins’ fancy footwork as persistent, loose-limbed Frank who bounces back after every rejection to win the girl he wants.
All in all, this transfer from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is a real box of treats. It doesn’t fight shy of depicting the hardships and discrimination of the time, but tells its story with real verve, soaring melodies and a sprinkling of humour to temper the sadness to come.
New London, Drury Lane, WC2B 5PF
Tube: Holborn/Covent Garden
Tickets £19.50 – £69.50 + Premium Seats
Currently Booking to 7th January 2017