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SHOW BOAT. 1927. Show Boat : The Musical as Epic.
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SHOW BOAT 1927
Show Boat: The Musical as Epic One of the most powerful and popular musicals ever written, Show Boat (1927) was the collaborative effort of three theatrical giants, Florenz Ziegfeld (producer), composer Jerome Kernand lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. Telling the epic story of how the inhabitants of a Mississippi show boat survive from the 1880's to the 1920s, this show deals with racism, marital heartbreak and alcoholism– subjects that had previously been considered taboo in musical theatre. (John Kenrick, Musicals 101)
Helen Morgan in the 1936 film The ground-breaking libretto was matched by an innovative, character-driven score with such hits as "Make Believe," "Old Man River" and "You Are Love." Saloon singer Helen Morgan had the greatest success of her career depicting the mulatto actress Julie LaVerne, introducing "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" and Bill, performing the latter while sitting atop an upright piano. Although many identify "Old Man River" with Paul Robeson, the song was actually introduced on Broadway by Jules Bledsoe – Robeson later performed the song in the 1928 London production and the 1936 film version.
1959 film From the original production Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man In the 1959 film version, Ava Gardner played the role of Julie. Her singing voice was dubbed by Annette Warren.
From the original production Show Boat was a tremendous commercial gamble. Nothing like it had ever been tried on Broadway before, and Ziegfeld had serious doubts about the show's chances of making a profit. Even so, he spared no expense, giving this sweeping saga the visual grandeur it needed. After the opening night audience filed out of the Ziegfeld Theatre in near silence, Ziegfeld thought his worst fears had been confirmed. He was pleasantly surprised when the next morning brought ecstatic reviews and long lines at the box office. In fact, Show Boat proved to be the most lasting accomplishment of Ziegfeld's career -- the only one of his shows that is still performed today.
Poster for 1929 film Show Boat can be appreciated at various levels. To many, it is an epic tale of undying love, but it also demonstrates how human sufferings and triumphs can fade away as time -- embodied by the ever flowing Mississippi -- "just keeps rolling along." This innovative masterpiece spawned no trends, but it showed what musical theater could aspire to -- aspirations that Hammerstein would re-ignite sixteen year later when he and Richard Rodgers gave birth to Oklahoma!. With three film versions and four acclaimed Broadway revivals, Show Boat's appeal has survived the test of time. With each generation emphasizing different aspects of the story, no two productions have been exactly the same.
Ol’ Man River 1936 film poster
NYC Revival, 1994 Click on phototo see the castperform.
MAJOR REVIVALS Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.May 19, 1932 - Oct 22, 1932Casino Theatre, NY, USA Produced by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein IIJan 5, 1946 - Jan 4, 1947Ziegfeld Theatre, NY, USA Produced by James M. Nederlander, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and The Denver Center for the Performing ArtsApr 24, 1983 - Jun 26, 1983Uris Theatre, NY, USA Produced by Livent, Inc.Oct 2, 1994 - Jan 5, 1997George Gershwin Theatre, NY, USA
William A White, 1868-1944 Edna Ferber, 1885-1968 AN EMPORIA CONNECTION. William Allen White and Edna Ferber were old and good friends. She visited many times at the family home at 9th and Merchant. In a 1930 article, White writes about their friendship.