“Showboat” Thursday, Aug. 17, The Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre
Every “Show Boat” needs a good “Ol’ Man River.”
This production has an outstanding one, courtesy of James Caddell, a brilliant operatic baritone.
Not only that, but this show also contains inspired performances in most of the other major roles. The result is a “Show Boat” that floats.
For a show that was written in 1927, before the musical comedy became an American art form, “Show Boat” holds up surprisingly well.
The Oscar Hammerstein dialogue is funny and clever, the story touches on some serious subjects (miscegenation laws in the South) and the Jerome Kern music is an undiluted delight. In fact, this show is one reason that the musical comedy became an American art form.
Director Roger Welch has put all of the right people in all of the right parts. He went far afield, to Seattle, to bring in Caddell, who has sung with the Seattle Opera.
Caddell’s “Ol’ Man River” is a tour de force, his voice dropping deeper than humanly possible, as deep as Ol’ Muddy itself. Listen to the phrase “and you land in jail” and see what he does with the word “jail”: His voice swoops smoothly down the scale, as if encompassing a whole range of sorrow, only to land an impossibly long time later squarely on pitch.
Caddell deserved the huge ovation he received.
There were so many other excellent performances, I can touch only briefly on each:
Laura Seable, charming and funny as the ditzy but ambitious Ellie May.
Stu Cabe, who brings a Steve Martin-like virtuosity to his role as the nervous (and hilariously drunken) Frank.
Bill Weis, who brings a Steamboat Willie antic energy to the role of Cap’n Andy.
Aletha Everett, feisty and funny as Queenie.
Callie McKinney, who unleashes her gorgeous voice in “After The Ball,” as Magnolia.
John Cooper, who makes a roguish Gaylord Ravenal.
Scarlett Hepworth, hilariously cranky and angular as the shrewish Parthy.
Jennifer Niederloh, as the disillusioned Julie.
Matt Flanders, effective in dual roles as Steve and Jim.
Welch’s direction seems to bring out the best in everyone.
The set, although clever, still managed to look cheap compared to the quality of the performances. A flimsy door broke halfway through the first act, although Cabe salvaged the situation by making it into a sight gag.
The show could also use some tightening up. The second act didn’t even begin until after 10 p.m. This is one show, however, where you shouldn’t find yourself glancing at your watch.
, DataTimes MEMO: “Show Boat” continues through Aug. 26 at North Idaho College, Boswell Hall, Coeur d’Alene. Shows are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets for evening performances are $18 for adults, $12 for age 18 and under; matinees are $16 for adults and $11 for children; call 1-800-4-CDA-TIX or (208) 769-7780.