Soprano Ashley Brown, who originated the title role of the musical Mary Poppins on Broadway in 2006, will debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago as Magnolia Hawks in the company premiere of the classic American musical, Show Boat, Lyric’s general director William Mason announced today. Brown, who received Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, and Drama Desk nominations for best actress for Mary Poppins, also portrayed the airborne English nanny throughout the U. S. (including performances at Chicago’s Cadillac Theatre in 2009). She recently completed that tour in Los Angeles, where she earned a 2010 Garland Award for “Best Performance in a Musical.” Brown is now back on Broadway in her signature role through mid-July. She has also portrayed the leading role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and starred in the national tour of Disney’s On the Record jukebox musical. Brown has performed with many of the major orchestras in the U. S. including the Boston Pops (Keith Lockhart), the New York Philharmonic (Marvin Hamlisch), the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (John Mauceri) at Disney Hall, the Pittsburgh Symphony opposite Shirley Jones (Marvin Hamlisch), the New York Pops (Steven Reineke) at Carnegie Hall (three times), the Fort Worth Symphony, the Cincinnati Pops (Erich Kunzel), the Indianapolis Symphony (Jack Everly three times), and the BBC orchestra opposite Josh Groban. The New York Times cited Brown’s “sweet, melting ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’” as the “standout moment” in her most recent Carnegie Hall performance. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described Brown as “thrilling…astonishing…leave us much to remember.” And of Brown’s most recent solo concert with the Indianapolis Symphony, the Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner declared her “sensational…the presence of a star who could one day join the ranks of White Way legends.” Brown earned her BFA degree in musical theater at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Lyric Opera Premiere / New Production
Lyric Opera Premiere / New Production
SHOW BOAT / Jerome Kern (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) (in English with projected English texts) 12 performances beginning at 7:30 p.m., except for matinees at 2:00 p.m. Feb. 12 (mat), 13, 17, 18, 22, 25, 28, Mar. 1 (mat), 2 (mat), 7 (mat), 9, 17 Premiered on Broadway in 1927, Show Boat contains some of the best-loved songs of the 20th century, including “Old Man River,” “Bill,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” and “You Are Love.” One of the most captivating visions of theatrical life ever presented on the American stage, this work blazed a trail for shows bridging the gap between opera and musical theater. Kern and Hammerstein were able to integrate songs into the drama as none of their musical-theater predecessors had done. The show boat of the title is the Cotton Blossom, depicted from 1880 up to the1920s. Magnolia Hawks (soprano Ashley Brown, debut), the daughter of Captain Andy (baritone Ross Lehman, debut) and his wife Parthy (mezzo-soprano Cindy Gold, debut), has a fine life on the show boat her parents operate, thanks to the affection of her friends – the stevedore Joe (bass Morris Robinson, debut), the cook Queenie (soprano Angela Renée Simpson, debut), the acting company’s leading lady, Julie La Verne (soprano Alyson Cambridge) and supporting cast members Ellie (soprano Erica Mac, debut) and Frank (baritone Bernie Yvon). Sheriff Vallon (John Lister, debut) learns that Julie, a mulatto, is illegally married to a white man, the company’s leading actor Steve Baker (James Farruggio, debut). After the couple leaves the show boat, their roles are given to Magnolia and a rakish gambler, Gaylord Ravenal (baritone Nathan Gunn). The two marry – despite Parthy’s objections – and settle in Chicago, where Ravenal’s luck runs out. Deeply ashamed, he leaves his wife and their daughter Kim (TBA). When Julie, now singing at Chicago’s Trocadero Club, overhears Magnolia auditioning there, she purposely sacrifices her position so that it can be Magnolia’s. On New Year’s Eve at the Trocadero, Magnolia sings and becomes a star. Additional cast members include Brian McCaskill/debut, Renée Matthews/debut, and Tony DiFalco. The production team includes stage director Francesca Zambello and conductor John DeMain, set designer Peter J. Davison, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Mark McCullough, sound designer Mark Grey, and choreographer Michele Lynch (debut).