The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – 2008
2008… WBOS’ 70th Anniversary Year
The story starts in the 1880s on one of the many American riverboats that featured travelling shows. It follows the lives and loves of the troupe that work aboard the Cotton Blossom under the command of Cap’n Andy and his wife Parthy Ann. In Natchez they come up against racial prejudice when the sheriff discovers that the leading lady, Julie, is a half-caste. He does not allow mixed shows in his town. The Captain’s daughter, Magnolia, steps in to save the show together with her love, the handsome gambler Gaylord Ravenal. Gaylord also has problems with the sheriff over a little matter of gambling debts. Magnolia and Gaylord leave the relative security of the Cotton Blossom to go and live in Chicago where, for a few years they are happy. Gaylord’s luck in winning at gambling eventually makes way for losing and soon his gambling losses cause him to leave his wife and their daughter, Kim.
Two of the old showboat song-and-dance pair, Frank and Ellie, have become successful on the vaudeville circuit and they meet up with Magnolia. Realising her desperate situation they get her a job as a singer at the Trocadero to replace the, by now alcoholic, Julie La Verne, the same Julie La Verne who used to be the Show Boat star.
Years later, both Magnolia and Kim are radio stars and Cap’n Andy organises a reunion of the old team aboard the Cotton Blossom and invites them. It is the ideal opportunity for them to be reunited with the now reformed Gaylord. Frank and Ellie stop off to greet their old colleagues en route to Hollywood.
Running throughout the story is the story of Joe, a coloured stevedore and his girl, Queenie and their role in a predominantly white environment where the coloured folk are very much considered second class citizens – if they are considered at all.
Magnolia Hawks – Kim Lavender
Gaylord Ravenal – John Wetherall
Julie Laverne – Sarah Moors
Steve Baker – Dave Storey
Captain Andy Hawks – David Hill
Parthy Ann Hawks – Sylvia Hill
Joe – Antonio James
Queenie – Linda Hargreaves
Ellie May Chipley – Emma Davis
Frank Schultz – Sam Robinson
Vallon/Jim – Craig Smith
Zara De’Anna Sinclaire
Director & Choreographer – Mike Capri
Musical Director – Jonathan Hill
Dance Captain – Claire Kramer