Small variations in costume — especially a colorful, artfully twisted piece of African cloth for Abigail — are used to distinguish the characters with whom the women interact, among them the tough-minded witch doctor who reminds Abigail that in her culture “the illness” is hardly special (“one two three, he has it; one two three, she has it”) and the freewheeling cousin who reminds Nia that, given her boyfriend’s NBA prospects, her pregnancy could be a gold mine. And though it’s appalling that Abigail and Nia share the hope that the very men who infected them will not now abandon them, the two young women are also connected by fresh, cocky humor and sheer resilience. Nia, though she’s had few breaks, has won a poetry prize, and one of In the Continuum’s moving highlights is a sort of hip-hop prayer. My own prayer is that more folks haul themselves to the BCA to take in this work, which is as entertaining as it is disturbing, than were in the sparse audience at the performance I attended.
Show Boat has churned its way through three films, but how often do you get a chance to see the first truly significant American musical on stage? One presents itself at North Shore Music Theatre (through October 12), where the 1927 show based on Edna Ferber’s 1926 novel and immersed in Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II’s magnificent score is enjoying a frisky, full-throated revival directed by Glenn Casale with a nod to the Tony-winning 1994 revival helmed by Harold Prince and several of the show’s strong singers reprising their roles from that production’s national tour.
Show Boat’s 30-year tale of life aboard and beyond Cap’n Andy’s nautical vaudeville palace, the Cotton Blossom, has a beautifully integrated first act and a rather ragged epic second, in which we reap the long-term results of romance and racial discrimination along the Mississippi River in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But ah, that familiar and fulfilling score! Highlights include “Only Make Believe,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’,” “You Are Love,” “Bill,” and, of course, “Ol’ Man River.” When Phillip Boykin opens his mouth to apply his commanding bass to Kern’s encomium to the timeless, mighty Mississippi, the experience is pure emotional pleasure. And it just keeps rolling along.
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