Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SFO: Show Boat

I hadn't planned on seeing the musical Show Boat done by the San Francisco Opera, but I was lured to the show last week by the opportunity to attend with a group of friends. It's a grand & lively production. The large cast mixes opera singers with Broadway performers & includes a black chorus, a white chorus, a black corps de ballet, a white corps de ballet, several children & supers. The costumes are brilliantly attractive. A moveable wall the height of the stage allows for rapid scene changes. The audience applauded the 1st appearance of the multi-story show boat set. The staging so wants to dazzle that confetti cannons are used twice.

The cast was convincing all around. Soprano Angela Renée Simpson has an out-going stage presence & is a vibrant Queenie. Bass Morris Robinson as Joe makes a wonderfully stable & comfy sound, & his "Ol' Man River" received extended applause. Soprano Heidi Stober gives a fine singing & acting performance as Magnolia, her voice controlled & clean. Soprano Patricia Racette's Julie is a class act, & I liked her boozy rendition of "Bill" in the 2nd act. Baritone Michael Todd Simpson looks the part of the debonair but caddish Gaylord Ravenal, & he sang with an open & smooth sound. Kirsten Wyatt was entertaining as a comical, high-voiced Ellie, & the rubber-limbed Bill Irwin got a round of applause for his slapstick routine in act 1. The black chorus made a cohesive, spirited sound. The performance was miked, with some performers requiring more amplification than others. I found the constantly changing levels of miking distracting.

Conductor John DeMain's lilting, comfortable tempos made it easy to sit through the long 1st act. The orchestra's playing was lithe. It was fun to hear the banjo & the interpolated Sousa marches. Knowing almost nothing about musicals, I recognized only 2 songs. While the 1st act tells a coherent, self-contained story, I found the 2nd act, which maps the characters' diverging paths over decades, a muddle. I loved the hiliarously bad melodrama performed on the Cotton Blossom, which is nothing but overacting accompanied by an off-key violin.

The Opera House looked full, & the audience laughed at all the jokes & paid close attention to the entire performance. Orchestra level patrons gave it a standing ovation. On this evening, the curtain was left up during intermission for the audience to view the set changeover. I was required to drink champagne in the North Box Bar, though, & missed this.

Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II

Conductor: John DeMain

Pete, Emcee: James Asher
Foreman: Joe Giammarco
Steve Baker, Max Greene: Patrick Cummings
Cap'n Andy Hawks: Bill Irwin
Parthy Ann Hawks: Harriet Harris
Ellie Mae Chipley: Kirsten Wyatt
Frank Schultz: John Bolton
Julie La Verne: Patricia Racette
Natchez Girl, Young Kim: Carmen Steele
Magnolia Hawks: Heidi Stober
Gaylord Ravenal: Michael Todd Simpson
Sheriff Vallon, Maitre d': Kevin Blackton
Drunk, Dealer: Phillip Pickens
Queenie's Friend, Woman: Simone Paulwell
Queenie's Friend, Lady on the Levee: Tracy Camp
Queenie's Friend: Samantha McElhaney
Queenie's Friend: Rachelle Perry
Girls: Kathleen Bayler, Sally Mouzon
Backwoodsman: Christopher Jackson
Mrs. O'Brien: Sharon McNight
Mother Superior: Mary Finch
Jake: Matthew Piatt
Lottie: Erin Neff

Thu 06/19/14 7:30pm
War Memorial Opera House


Michael Strickland said...

"Required to drink champagne in the North Box Bar"? The sacrifices you make for art, poor thing, are inspiring.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, someone has to do the heavy lifting.

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