Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

Show Boat

Also see Scott's review of Nite Club Confidential

As promised, La Comedia Dinner Theatre in southwest Ohio continues to provide quality food and theater as they have for many years. Their latest production, Show Boat, uses a large and talented cast, smooth direction, and solid set design to deliver an enjoyable audience experience.

Show Boat follows the life of Magnolia Hawks, whose father operates a show boat filled with colorful actors and workers, and the people that come into her life. The musical spans four and a half decades from 1883 through 1927, the year the show was written.

The musical was written by Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) and Jerome Kern (music). The significance of this groundbreaking show continues to be felt today, as this piece set the standard and formula for musical theater still being followed almost 76 years later. Until Show Boat opened on Broadway in late 1927, shows were fluff musical comedies or high-drama operettas. Show Boat brought a serious storyline, characters with depth, and "modern" social commentary to the stage on the highest artistic level. The book deals with such topics as racism and broken marriages and families. The score contains now classic songs such as "Life Upon The Wicked Stage," "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and "Make Believe." It is a show that still stands the test of time in quality, story, songs, and characters.

The performers in La Comedia's Show Boat are uniformly strong. They provide first-class solo vocals, passionate performances, and the necessary dignity for their roles. Lead actors include Moria Stone (Magnolia), John Weigand (Captain Andy), Stephen Mitchell Brown (Ravenal), Janet Brucken (Parthy), Barry Lewis (Joe), Marsha Lawson (Queenie), Monica Mannarelli (Julie), Stevy Rhodehamel (Ellie), Ryan Stem (Frank), and Katie Mussler (Kim). The only area in need of improvement worth mentioning is when the cast sings as an ensemble. This deficiency may have as much to do with the material as the performances, but many of the lyrics are lost during some of those choral moments.

Keith Cromwell has become a La Comedia staple as Director and Choreographer, and he again provides quality staging, pace, and tone for this piece, along with visually fun dances. The design by Matthew J. Evans skillfully creates the various scenic locations for the musical, including the large boat. The set pieces are flexible and quite an accomplishment given the theater's space limitations. Costumes by Jane Sizemore and Jody Williams are attractive and period appropriate.

Show Boat is a classic musical with historical significance which still entertains today. La Comedia has supplied a top-notch cast and all of the other necessary elements to make this a fine production. The show continues through November 2, 2003 and tickets can be ordered online at or by phone at 1-800-677-9505.

-- Scott Cain

Also see the current Cincinnati Area Theatre Schedule