Chicago Theatre Review
Can’t Help Lovin’ This Show
By Frank Meccia/Gayle Kirshenbaum
Show Boat Is it a musical or an opera?
The magic of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern came to life this past Sunday under the direction of Francesca Zambello. With added musical numbers and rearrangements by John DeMain, this 1927 hit transformed Broadway back then and transformed the Lyric Sunday with a new kind of musical theatre. Opera Diva Frederica von Stade once said in an interview that ” the lines between Opera and musical theatre can be very blurry”. There are many Broadway musicals that are really operettas; Sweeney Todd, A little Night Music, The Most Happy Fella and Les Miserable to name a few. But these are hybrids to true opera. The debate will go on for years, but for Lyric Opera it has been a fantastic journey.
With opera greats such as Nathan Gunn, Morris Robinson, Alyson Cambridge, Angela Renee Simpson and Ashley Brown their music and voices soar. Add to that some of the greatest voices and actors that have graced the Chicago stages for years, including Ross Lehman, Cindy Gold, Bernie Yvon, Renee Matthews and many others this show could only be superb. We had a chance to speak with Renee about what this experience means to her. After having studied at the Met for years she said “this is a dream of a lifetime come true, to step on the stage of the Lyric Opera with such an incredibly wonderful cast and crew”. Set design by Peter J. Davison really shows off the charm of Chicago in the early 1900’s and the beauty of the showboat. And the period piece costumes by Paul Tazewell are a treat to admire.
If you’re looking for classic opera then see AIDA which is also playing at the Lyric this month. If you want to see a timeless musical with a cast that is truly the cream of the crop then this is the show to see. In answer to the question is it an opera or musical? Call it what you want but in the end it is truly a masterpiece.
Showboat runs through March 17.
For tickets call 312-332-2244 or Lyricopera.org