Full Length Musical, Drama  /  8f, 9m, 1girl(s)

Music by Jerome Kern / Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II / Based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber

A lyrical masterpiece about three generations of show folk and their lifelong friends.
Show Boat
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  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    8f, 9m, 1girl(s)
  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Adaptations (Literature), Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    • Appropriate for all audiences
    • Adult
Spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, this lyrical masterpiece concerns the lives, loves and heartbreaks of three generations of show folk on the Mississippi, in Chicago and on Broadway (and their lifelong friends). The primary plot follows Magnolia, the naive daughter of the show boat captain, as she marries a gambler and moves with him to Chicago. His gambling continues as his debts compound, and soon he deserts her and their young daughter. A subplot concerns the potential arrest of Magnolia's selfless best friend on charges of miscegenation when it's discovered that she is of mixed race, and her subsequent downward spiral into despair. The passing of time reunites Magnolia and her now-grown daughter with her family on the show boat as well as with her husband, who eventually returns offering a hopeful second chance at familial fulfillment.


Performing Groups
  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Church / Religious Groups

Licence details

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.



  • Time Period: 1920s, 1910s / WWI, 1900-1910, 18th Century
  • Duration: More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes


Show Boat takes place along the Mississippi and in Chicago during the late 19th Century and in 1927.

Specific Locations
The Levee at Natchez on the Mississippi
Kitchen Pantry of the 'Cotton Blossom'
Auditorium and Stage of the 'Cotton Blossom'
Box Office, on Foredeck
The Top Deck The Levee at Greenville
The Midway Plaisance, Chicago World's Fair
Room on Ontario Street
Rehearsal Room, Trocadero Music Hall
St. Agatha's Convent
Trocadero Music Hall
Stern of Show Boat


8f, 9m, 1girl(s)
Cast Attributes
  • Multicultural casting
  • Roles for Children
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)
5 Women
5 Men

3 Women
4 Men
1 Girl

Large singing-dancing ensemble with numerous small roles and children

Windy - the pilot on the Show Boat
Steve Baker - the leading man in the Show Boat Troupe
Pete - the engineer on the Show Boat
Queenie - the African-American cook on the Show Boat
Parthy Ann Hawkes - Cap'n Andy's wife
Cap'n Andy - the captain of the Show Boat
Ellie May Chipley - the soubrette in the Show Boat Troupe
Frank Schultz - Ellie's boyfriend, the villain in the Show Boat Troupe
Julie LaVerne - Steve's wife, the leading lady in the Show Boat Troupe, multiracial
Gaylord Ravenal - a handsome gambler
Sherrif Vallon - of Natchez
Magnolia Hawkes - Parthy and Andy's daughter
Joe - Queenie's husband, an African-American stevedore
Congress of Beauties
Jim Greene - the director of the floor show at the Trocadero Nightclub
Jake - the pianist at the Trocadero
Charlie - the doorman at the Trocadero
Mother Superior
Kim (child) - Magnolia and Ravenal's 10-year-old daughter
Old Lady on Levee


  • Musical Style: Classic Broadway, Operetta
  • Dance Requirements: Difficult
  • Vocal Demands: Moderate
  • Orchestra Size: Medium
  • Chorus Size: Large
1. "Cotton Blossom" - Stevedores and Townspeople
2. "Show Boat Parade and Ballyhoo" - Cap'n Andy, the Show Boat Troupe and Townspeople
3. "Only Make Believe" - Ravenal and Magnolia
4. "Ol' Man River" - Joe and Stevedores
5. "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" - Julie, Queenie, Magnolia, Joe and Quartette
6. "Life Upon The Wicked Stage" - Ellie and Ensemble
7. "Ballyhoo and Dance" - Queenie and Ensemble
8. "You Are Love" - Magnolia and Ravenal
9. "Finale" - Entire Ensemble
10. "At The Fair" - Sightseers and Barkers
11. "Why Do I Love You?" - Magnolia, Ravenal and Ensemble
12. "In Dahomey" - Dahomey Villagers
13. "Bill (Lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse)" - Julie
14. "Reprise: Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" - Magnolia
15. "Service and Scene Music, St. Agatha's Convent" - 
16. "Reprise: Only Make Believe" - Ravenal
17. "Goodbye My Lady Love (Cake Walk)" - Frank and Ellie
18. "After The Ball" - Magnolia
19. "Reprise: Ol' Man River" - Joe
20. "Reprise: You Are Love" - Ravenal
21. "Finale" - Entire Ensemble

Full Orchestration

Flute (Doubling Piccolo)
Oboe (Optional English Horn doubling)
Clarinet I&II
Horn I&II
Trumpet I&II
Violin A,B,C&D
Viola (Divisi)
Cello (Divisi)
Banjo/Guitar (Requires 2 Players)

Trap Set


Rehearsal Resources

Music Material Rental Packages Glyphs / UI / Tooltip

Full Package:
30 Libretto Vocal
1 Piano Vocal

1 Flute
1 Oboe
1 Clarinet I&II
1 Bassoon
1 Horn I&II
1 Trumpet I&II
1 Trombone
2 Percussion
4 Violin A,B,C&D
1 Viola
1 Cello
1 Bass
2 Banjo/Guitar
1 Logo Pack

Piano Only:

30 Libretto Vocal
1 Piano Vocal
1 Logo Pack

Additional Resources And Services Available



"Show Boat has become part of the American experience, part of our folklore, with Ol' Man River' occupying a permanent place in our collective unconcious." — The New Yorker
"Excellent ...perilously close to being the best New York has exceptionally tuneful score...every ingredient that the perfect musical should have." — The New York Times

"Show Boat dates from 1927's for the ages." — Chicago Tribune

"A jewel of the American theater...Featuring so many perfect scenes and songs that it is impossible to mention them all. Show Boat is the granddaddy of every great musical ever written!" — Los Angeles Times

"A masterpiece!...Show Boat is a great and richly entertaining musical." — Houston Chronicle

Music Samples



Jerome Kern

Jerome Kern (1885-1945) composed his first complete show, The Red Petticoat, in 1912. Between 1915 and 1919, he composed a series of intimate chamber musicals, mostly in collaboration with Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, known as the Princess Theatre shows. These works — Very Good Eddie; Oh, Boy!; Oh, Lady! Lady! ...

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Oscar Hammerstein II

Oscar Hammerstein II was born on July 12, 1895 in New York City. His father, William, was a theatre manager and for many years director of Hammerstein's Victoria, the most popular vaudeville theatre of its day. His uncle, Arthur Hammerstein, was a successful Broadway producer and his grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein, ...

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Edna Ferber

Edna Ferber (1887-1968) was an American novelist and playwright whose camera-like regional descriptions and vigorous portraiture of ordinary men and women made her one of the most popular authors of the early 20th century. Her first professional writing was done for newspapers in Wisconsin and, later, Chicago. In 19 ...

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