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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Carnegie Hall


  Carolee Carmello/PH:Chris Lee

The Cotton Blossom docked at Carnegie Hall. On board were fifty-three musicians, a forty-four member chorus and a cast of twenty-seven actors. The occasion marked the eighty-first anniversary of Show Boat, the beloved riverboat musical with music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, based on Edna Ferber's turbulent novel of life on the Mississippi.

The concert marked eight decades since its historic opening at the Ziegfeld Theatre. This time there were no colorful banners, no churning water wheel, nor bales of cotton stacked on the deck. What remained is simply the glorious score that seduced the heart of a nation and served as a landmark in the history of musical theater. The score is immortal and once again it soared with considerable pluck and plumage in this ravishing concert performance.

The exceptional values of the glorious musical score and Robert Russell Bennett's sumptuous original orchestrations were fully realized by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, under the direction of Paul Gemignani. Great melodic sweep dominated the concert, and there was just enough character development to define the story's sentiment and charm.

Nathan Gunn appeared as the wandering gambler, Gaylord Ravenal and Celena Shafer was his perky wife, Magnolia. Together they captured the ardent beauty of Make Believe. You Are Love, and Why Do I Love You? Alvy Powelll brought great strength to Joe, the lumbering deckhand and he rendered Ol' Man River with soaring power and eloquence.

Carolee Carmello appeared as the tragic half-caste Julie La Verne. Her singing of Bill, if a tad strident, defined the kind of torchy grandeur that was once the exclusive terrain of Helen Morgan. The racial bigotry defined by the character still resonates with a valid dramatic thrust..

An animated Gavin Lee invested lanky luster to the role of hoofer Frank Schultz. Jonathan Hadary as Cap'n Andy appeared to have side stepped the crusty comic humor of the character, but that can only be credited to the severe script deletions. Becky Anne Baker offered a stern account of the flinty Parthy Ann.

Alteouise deVaughn shuffled joyously as Queenie throughout Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and avoided the tradition of playing the role as an Aunt Jemima mammy.

For an all too brief benedictory, the great Marilyn Horne made a token appearance as the Lady on the Levee. The opera star was greeted with sustained applause.

The most embarassing and unforgivable line delivery was emitted by an emcee who introduced Magnolia as the star of the ZiegFIELD Follies instead of the ZiegFELD Follies. Shame, shame!


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