(Claire Allfree’s article appeared in the Telegrpah, 12/17.)
Oh, how Sheffield Theatres will miss Daniel Evans. The outgoing artistic director, recently announced as the new head of Chichester Festival Theatre, has an assured reputation for copper-bottomed productions of classic musicals. But this revival of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s lesser performed 1927 work is, even by his standards, something special.
It was a radical piece for its time. Based on Edna Ferber’s novel about the tumultuous lives of a group of performers aboard the Mississippi show boat Cotton Blossom, it combines a panoramic snapshot of a changing America with detailed close-ups of personal hardship.
Spanning several decades from the late 1800s, it tackles racism, alcoholism, women’s rights, gambling and the dawn of modernity. These were rare subjects back then for musical theatre, and in that great American musical tradition, Show Boat effortlessly views them through the telescoping lens of show business itself.