Post Cards from the Edge Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Showboat - Thursday, June 19, 2014: War Memorial, San Francisco | Welcome to Fred’s Home Page

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Showboat - Thursday, June 19, 2014: War Memorial, San Francisco 



Apparently this production has caused quite an uproar in the opera community.  What’s a musical doing being performed at War Memorial Opera House?  The reality is money.  Opera companies worldwide are losing money and are suffering from dwindling attendance from an aging group of patrons.  This was an attempt to put people in the seats and help bolster the bottom line.  It worked.  The place was packed. 

I did find it a little disconcerting to see a broadway play performed at War Memorial but I don’t think it totally out of place.  It was well done.  There were some members of the actual road crew and some members of the opera working well together in the production.  Notice Patricia Racette sang a lead role in this and the opera the night before. 

My opera buddy and I attended some of the lecture before the performance and one statement made by the person doing the lecture struck us as unusual.  If you know anything about the original musical, you know the “n” word was used pretty much throughout the production.  The lecturer stated this caused some angst among the production staff on how to handle the situation.  It was decided to have only the “bad” people in the production use the “n” word and the “good” people in the production used “colored person”.  My opera buddy, who is black, and I both thought this weird.  We agreed either use the word throughout as in the production or do away with it totally. 

Afterwards, upon reflection, the use of the word by Pete and the sheriff was not as disconcerting as I thought it would be with the other cast members using a different terminology.  Regardless, the musical must have been ground breaking when it came out for dealing with the topic of black and white marriage. 

Of course, the highlight was Morris Robinson’s rendition of “Ole Man River”.  It brought down the house and was reprised twice in the production, each time soliciting cheers.  James Asher as the villain drew a wonderful chorus of boos for his performance as the dastardly cad who turns in Julie and Steve.

It was certainly an entertaining production and rumor has it that Sweeny Todd may be scheduled in the future!

Image from SF Opera web page.

© Fred Searcy 2017