Auditions for the principal roles in “Show Boat” will be held this weekend, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ariel. For those who cannot attend the weekend tryouts but want to audition for a role, another tryout is set for Tuesday, May 23 at 6 p.m., also at the Ariel.
The production will be directed by Cindy Graham, with Susan Beman overseeing the vocal direction and Scott Michal, director of the Ariel Youth Orchestra, handling the orchestrations.
Graham and Beman have worked together on several musical productions, including “George M!”, “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Graham said “Show Boat” offers a challenge for something classical yet different to be tried on the Ariel stage.
“What we're trying to do is put a challenge out there,” she said. “Previous productions have been well-received with dramatics, but we want to try dramatics and music.”
“Show Boat,” taken from an Edna Ferber novel, offers ample supplies of music and plot. With book by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Jerome Kern, the story is set aboard a turn-of-the-century steamboat plying the Mississippi with stage entertainment and colorful characters. The captain's young daughter, captivated by the charming Ravenol, marries him but eventually returns to the river life she loves while Julie, who is partially African-American, copes with tragedy and prevailing attitudes of the time in her search for happiness and self-respect.
“As with all Hammersteins, there's a double meaning in the plot and he would put this racial issue in more than once, as in ‘South Pacific,'” Graham said. “In this production, he hits the prejudice against Julie.”
But so much for the story. The music is what has made “Show Boat” a favorite with audiences since its 1927 Broadway debut, featuring such standards as “Can't Help Lovin' That Man” and “Old Man River,” a song the great singer Paul Robeson immortalized in the late ‘20s and 1930s.
For “Show Boat,” Graham and Beman are looking for young and mature cast members alike in the auditions. A cast of 35 to 40 individuals is needed in addition to the orchestra.
“A packet of information will be available at the tryouts,” Graham said. “They can do a cold reading. We are going for the top-notch amateur performer in Gallia County.”
Anyone interested in the chorus or dancing role is not needed at this weekend's tryouts. Auditions for those parts are slated for July.
The directors will also gbet a boost in the assistance of such veterans of productions directed by the late Ed Roark as Joe Wright, the Ariel's executive director, Josie Bapst and Patsy Schuldt. India Cullen will be the production's stage manager.
Graham also views the Ariel as an ideal venue for “Show Boat” for reasons that tie into its history and the river heritage of the area.
“One of the prettier parts is having a stage that was built at the time this play takes place,” she said. “When you look at the stage, at the curtains, it could very well be the Cotton Blossom.”
For more information, contact the Ariel at 446-2787.