Somehow, someway, “Show Boat” at the Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs manages to burn through most of its problems.
Glitchy microphones can’t dim the vibrant singing.
Stiff blocking can’t trip up the peppy dancing.
Wooden acting almost sinks it, but the musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II keeps the musical afloat, moored to the dock by such show tune classics as “Ol’ Man River,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “Bill,” “Make Believe,” “You Are Love” and “Why Do I Love You.”
When they are not standing around looking a little unsure of themselves, the cast assembled by director Dan Kelley sings — with the exception of one or two who overpower the recorded music — the iconic score with real lyrical feeling, creating some lovely moments.
Aside from the usual fare of falling in and out of love, “Show Boat” covers plenty of territory. Based on Edna Ferber’s book about entertainers on a Mississippi riverboat that stretches from 1887 to 1927 — the smart and expensive-looking costumes go from bustles-and-bodices to flapper fringe — the show takes on miscegenation, addiction and racism. It is widely attributed as the first musical to grapple with serious subject matter.
You’ve had since 1927 to learn the plot, but just in case you haven’t: The “Cotton Blossom” has docked in Natchez, where just before the show, the stars are yanked when the sheriff learns they are an interracial couple. The show boat’s captain thrusts his daughter onstage partnered with a sketchy gambler, who also has to get out of town. The two fall in love and marry, but the fates are unkind.
“Workmanlike” is hardly the word you want associated with any production, yet here it is apt. But when the material is this rich, the score this iconic, and many of the soloists this gifted — I’m looking at you, Todd MacIntyre as Gaylord Ravenal, Rose Ouellette as Ellie May Chipley, Deidra Grace as Queenie, Edwin Watson as Joe, Eric Weaver as Frank Schultz and Colleen Amaya as Magnolia Hawks — just squint your eyes and ignore the rest.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun