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Lees McRae Theatre Presents Show Boat, a Musical that ‘Shows Us Our Glorious Past in a Delicious Way’

Aug. 3, 2012. Perhaps the most influential musical of the twentieth century is Show Boat. After three film versions, numerous Broadway and London revivals, countless tours and recordings, legendary director Harold Prince took the helm for a new Broadway production in 1994, this streamlined version became an instant hit.

Show Boat is one of the finest examples of American Musical Theatre and, indeed, it is the grandaddy of the genre,” said Janet Speer, artistic director of Lees-McRae Summer Theatre.

Written in 1927, Show Boat still has messages that resonate with us today and of course it has songs like “Old Man River” and “Make Believe” and “Bill” that are timeless. “It is a history lesson with song and dance and it shows us our glorious past in a delicious way,” Speer said. 

Based on Edna Ferber’s bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands and dockworkers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River showboat, over a span of nearly fifty years, from 1880 to 1927.

Show Boat tells the story of a showboat family and their struggles with gambling, race and infidelity and poverty.

The story begins with “Captain Andy” (local Bob Haas) and his wife “Parthy” (Ruthie Tutterow from Greensboro). The Show Boat lands in town and one of the performers, “Julie” (played by alumni Jennifer Poarch Stone) is a headliner. 

However, there is a fellow on the boat who is in love with Julie and determined to win her affection. When she, a married woman, does not return that affection, he lets everyone know that Julie is half black. This starts a tale that resonates with us still today.  In those days interracial marraige was against the law. 

Central to the plot is “Joe” and “Queenie” played by Brian Newland (from Chicago) and alum Shaquera Alls. They provide the theme that runs through the show; “Old Man River” and “Fish Gotta Swim.” Also on the boat is “Magnolia,” Captain Andy’s daughter played by New York actress Grace Feild. She wants to be an actress and falls in love with a river gambler “Gaylord Ravenol” (played by alum Christopher Galloway).  They marry but his compusive gambling creates problems in the marraige. 

Comic relief is provided by “Ellie” (played by alum Caitie Moss) and Frank (played by Kerry Lambreth). They produce famous songs such as “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” and “Goodbye My Lady Love.” 

“Although the play was written years ago, the plot is far from simplistic,” Speer said. “It is a rich piece of work, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein and its frequent revivals around the world and in New York attest to its longevity.”

Tickets for adults range from $30 to $35, depending on where you sit. Tickets for students and children are $20.

Hayes Auditorium is located at 191 Main Street in Banner Elk.


Friday, August 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 4 at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 5 at 2 p.m.