Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama theatre department brings ‘Show Boat’ to campus

Last week, The University of Alabama’s theatre department left Tuscaloosa to feature its rendition of the musical, “Show Boat” at the Mobile Civic Center Theater. The production featured a cast of 43 actors as well as 12 orchestra members.

Originally based on a novel by Edna Ferber, “Show Boat” tells the tale of three generations of show folk who work aboard a floating theater named “The Cotton Blossom.” The show carries various themes throughout each scene such as love, racial issues and the inevitable reality of growing older.

Premiering in 1927, “Show Boat” became a very influential show in 20th century theater.

“It’s considered to be the first real American musical theatre piece,” Bill Teague, chair of the department of theatre and dance, said. “It was written in 1927 and prior to then, all of the shows had been reviews and burlesques. This is the first show that took a story, a real honest to goodness story, and had music written for it. This sort of created the musical theatre genre that we’re used to today.”

To portray the changing time periods, the actors have multiple costume changes throughout the various acts and scenes. The costumes were selected to help enhance the characters’ personalities, as well as being historically accurate to make the musical’s setting become more realistic to its audiences.

“We began fittings early in the semester,” Donna Meester, costume designer for the musical, said. “At that point, the actors got their first look and feel regarding what they would be like on stage. They also found out if they would be styling their own hair or wearing a wig, or wigs, which also has an impact on how they feel as a character.”

Along with using costumes to enhance the time period of the show, the actors also had to go through a process of connecting with their characters and the emotions that they portray throughout the show. ‘Show Boat’ has allowed me to embrace and fall in love with this classical musical theatre style,” said Jessica May, a senior majoring in musical theatre, who plays the part of Magnolia Hawks.

“The story is so honest and simple, but there is a lot of emotional struggle every character goes through,” May said. “I get to go through first feelings of love, a first kiss, a wedding, having a child, being abandoned by my husband and reconciling with him all in one night. It’s been an challenging but amazing experience.”

The cast rehearsed in Tuscaloosa but had to make final adjustments during rehearsals down in Mobile.

Bill Teague said with the return back to campus, the musical is being restaged to fit in a smaller space.

“We had a couple of days of rehearsal in Mobile to finish the show there, and then open out of town, and then bring it back here then have a run here in Tuscaloosa,” Teague said. “It was all very new, so we we’re making adjustments and corrections right up until the last moment down there, still kind of tweaking the show. We expanded it to fit the stage in Mobile, and now we’re going to have to shrink it back down to fit our stage here.”

Traveling to Mobile gave the cast the opportunity to perform on a larger stage in a theatre that seats almost 2,000 people. The new space also enabled them to experience a new and unfamiliar audience.

“Performing at the theatre in Mobile was an incredible experience,” May said. “Knowing it was such a large space, I expected to have to make my performance larger and louder to compensate, but because the space was so live, we were actually able to pull back slightly in places and still be heard and read. I was expecting it to be a challenge, but I felt it ending up being really freeing.”

“Show Boat” will be performing in the Marion Gallaway Theatre on April 15 through the 20 at 7:30 p.m. and April 21at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the Gallaway Theatre box office or online. Tickets are $12 for students, $15 for faculty, staff and senior citizens and $18 for adults.

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