The cost of seeing a West End musical will reach its highest ever price when the Broadway production of Show Boat sails into town Tuesday 28 April (with previews from 20 April). Top price seats for the spectacular, to be staged at the Prince Edward Theatre, will cost £35 compared to the current high of £32.50 -- for the likes of Chicago, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables -- the normal price since Andrew Lloyd Webber introduced it with his production of Sunset Boulevard five years ago.
Other producers say they do not intend to raise their prices but, now that the precedent has been set, prices are likely to edge up. Canadian producer of Show Boat Garth Drabinsky was also responsible for setting the Broadway high of $75.
Drabinsky justifies these ticket prices by the enormous expense that goes into staging a huge spectacle like Show Boat. The production, directed by Hal Prince, comes to London with a company of 57 actors, singers and dancers, many of whom appeared in the original Broadway cast. Following a transatlantic journey by ship, it will take some 20 trucks to bring the production from the port of Felixstow to the London stage, transporting gigantic sets, including the 40ft long and 25ft high Cotton Blossom floating theatre and over 500 costumes.
This multi-award-winning production is a new version of Show Boat incorporating elements from the musicals various scripts and film adaptations during the past 70 years. The production opened first on Broadway in October 1994, setting the record for largest box office advance for a musical revival. It went on to become the most honoured musical of the 1994/95 season winning a total of 26 awards, including five Tony awards.
Show Boat is considered a milestone in the history of musical theatre. Adapted by composer Jerome Kern and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II from Edna Ferbers novel, its story spans four generations while journeying on the Cotton Blossom from Natchez to Chicago and back again. Jerome Kerns score emcompasses gospel, opera, blues, ragtime and jazz and includes such as "Ol' Man River," "Make Believe" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." The London production is mounted by the original creative team of Hal Prince and choreographer Susan Stroman. Sets are designed by Eugene Lee, with costumes by Florence Klotz, lighting design by Richard Pilbrow and sound by Martin Levan.