Francesca Zambello's Show Boat, With Ashley Brown, Nathan Gunn, Alyson Cambridge, Begins in Chicago Feb. 12 | Playbill

News Francesca Zambello's Show Boat, With Ashley Brown, Nathan Gunn, Alyson Cambridge, Begins in Chicago Feb. 12
The Lyric Opera of Chicago's new production of Show Boat, the 1927 musical drama that was a watershed in American theatre, plays Feb. 12-March 17 at The Civic Opera House. Opera and concert star Nathan Gunn and Broadway's Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) play young lovers whose path over the years is as twisted as the Mississippi River.

Ashley Brown
Ashley Brown Photo by Jmmy Asnes

Francesca Zambello (the touring Little House on the Prairie, Broadway's The Little Mermaid and the upcoming Rebecca) directs.

Opera star Gunn (Lancelot in New York Philharmonic's Camelot and classic roles around the world) played Show Boat's gambler-turned-actor Ravenal for Zambello in a 2008 Carnegie Hall concert version of the classic by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Brown (playing the ingénue-turned-Broadway star Magnolia Hawks) was nominated for Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards in 2007 for creating the title role in Broadway's Mary Poppins.

Show Boat, covering more than 30 years in the lives of the people connected to the Mississippi River floating playhouse known as "Cotton Blossom," is based on the novel by Edna Ferber. It introduced serious themes (racism, miscegenation, romantic delusion, addiction and more) in a time when most musicals were frivolous entertainments.

Revivals of the musical usually draw from a reconsidered version of the property crafted by Kern and Hammerstein in the 1940s, which does not exactly reflect the 1927 score. (In recent years, a song called "Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'," cut in 1927, has been added back to the show to more deeply illustrate the story's social strata.) The principal cast also includes Alyson Cambridge as Julie, Morris Robinson as Joe, Angela Renée Simpson as Queenie, Ross Lehman as Capt. Andy, Ericka Mac as Ellie, Bernie Yvon as Frank and Cindy Gold as Parthy. John DeMain is the conductor.

The creative team also includes scenery designer Peter J. Davison, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Mark McCullough, sound designer Mark Grey, chorus master Michael Black and choreographer Michele Lynch.

The show's musical numbers include "Make Believe," "Old Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine," "You Are Love" and more.

The Civic Opera House is located at 20 N. Wacker Drive. For more information, visit

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