NEILSON’S COLUMN (June 23, 2016): Catch the brilliant Show Boat while you can

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The line between success and failure in show business is thin and extremely blurred.

Some West End shows can run for years without being particularly good, while others can close swiftly, even though they are brilliant.

A show’s longevity is decided by many factors – publicity, word of mouth, reviews, theatre availability, star name attraction.

Some, or maybe all of these, mean that the wonderful West End production of Show Boat, is closing in August. I saw the show last week with my family and we all loved it. It was written in 1927 by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein and deals with racism, alcoholism, interracial marriage, poverty and was the first racially integrated musical.

It was, for its time, revolutionary and watching it now, it doesn’t seem like it was written nearly ninety years ago. Although Show Boat has never received universal praise for the way it deals with issues such as race, it still has impact. Audiences of the time, had never seen anything like it and it changed the way musicals were produced into the now familiar ‘story’ musical rather than a simple review style show.

If you like a great show, with a great cast, all of whom can sing, dance and act, go and see Show Boat at the New London Theatre.

If I’m out and about in Horsham, as I was last week, I’m often stopped and asked if I’ll be performing in panto at The Capitol, as I have before. Of course, I’d dearly love to, as Horsham’s not only my home theatre, but I also know so many local youngsters and their families thanks to my drama school. But the decision is not mine alone, of course.

As an actor interested in playing a particular role in a production, your agent calls the person in charge of casting and expresses your interest. You then audition (maybe several times) and hopefully land the part. As I’ve performed in many pantos over the years, I often just get a direct offer without auditioning. I usually make myself available for Horsham panto, but always end up elsewhere. Last year I was in Chatham and the year before, in Shrewsbury. This year I’m playing Dame in Kettering. If there is a suitable role for me in The Capitol’s production next Christmas, maybe you’ll see me there once again, but, like a show’s success or failure, it depends on many factors.

Follow Michael Neilson on Twitter @michael_neilson.

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