AN R&H THEATRICALS TITLE

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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OVERVIEW

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    8f, 9m, 1girl(s)
  • Duration
    Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Subgenre
    Adaptations (Literature), Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    • Appropriate for all audiences
    • Adult
Description
Spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, this lyrical masterpiece concerns the lives, loves and heartbreaks of three generations of show folk (and their lifelong friends) on the Mississippi, in Chicago and on Broadway. 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.
History

Show Boat opened on Broadway at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927. The show was a great critical and popular success, running for a total of 572 performances. In 1936, Universal Studios released a film adaptation of the musical featuring Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson. In 1951, MGM released a full-color film adaptation, using many of the songs from the stage adaptation but reworking much of the plot. After its initial run, Show Boat returned to Broadway no less than six times: in 1932 and 1946 at the Ziegfeld Theatre; in 1948 and 1954 at New York City Center; in 1983 at the Uris (Gershwin) Theatre featuring Donald O'Connor as Cap'n Andy; and in 1994, again at the Gershwin, under the direction of Harold Prince. Prince's 1994 production earned Show Boat its longest Broadway run with 947 performances. In 2011, a new version of Show Boat, adapted for a smaller cast and orchestra, opened at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, under the direction of Rob Ruggiero.

Writers' Notes

Edna Ferber:

As the writing of the musical play proceeded (and its ups and downs were even more heartbreaking than those of most musical plays) I heard bits and pieces of the score. Once or twice everything was seemingly abandoned because Ziegfeld said he couldn't produce the play. Almost a year went by. I had heard "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" with its love-bemused lyric... I had melted under the bewitching strains of "Make Believe" and of "Why Do I Love You?"... And then Jerome Kern appeared at my apartment late one afternoon with a strange look of quiet exultation in his eyes. He sat down at the piano. He didn't play the piano particularly well and his singing voice, though true, was negligible. He played and sang "Ol' Man River." The music mounted, mounted, and I give you my word my hair stood on end, the tears came to my eyes, I breathed like a heroine in a melodrama. This was great music. This was music that would outlast Jerome Kern's day and mine. I have never heard it since without that emotional surge. When Show Boat was revived at the Casino Theater in New York just four years after its original production at the Ziegfeld I saw a New York first-night audience, after Paul Robeson's singing of 'Ol' Man River,' shout and cheer and behave generally as I've never seen an audience behave in any theater in all my years of playgoing.

Alice Hammerstein Mathias:

For the 1946 revival of Show Boat, my father Oscar Hammerstein II inserted a note in the program giving P.G. Wodehouse full credit for the lyrics to “Bill.”  Wodehouse did write the original lyric, but my father contributed to the song as performed in Show Boat. In addition, as was customary in the 1920’s, the authors interpolated three ‘modern’ selections to the second act. They are John Philip Sousa’s “The Washington Post March,” Joseph E. Howard’s “Goodbye, My Lady Love,” and Charles K. Harris’ waltz “After the Ball.” All three have become part of the traditional score of Show Boat.

Considerations

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.

Specifics

Details

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

Setting:

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

Casting

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

ENSEMBLE:
The ensemble for Show Boat features a Black singing and dancing ensemble and a non-Black singing and dancing ensemble, as well as numerous small roles and children.

CHARACTERS:
Windy – the pilot of the Cotton Blossom.
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
Rubberface
Julie LaVerne – Steve's wife, the leading lady in the Show Boat Troupe, mixed race
Gaylord Ravenal – a handsome gambler
Sherrif Vallon – of Natchez
Magnolia Hawkes – Parthy and Andy's daughter
Joe – Queenie's husband, an African American stevedore
Backwoodsman
Barkers
Congress of Beauties
Landlady
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

CASTING NOTE:
Based on the 1926 novel by Edna Ferber and spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, Show Boat chronicles the lives of three generations of performers on the Cotton Blossom. The roles and ensembles indicated as African American should be cast accordingly. One pivotal plot point involves the character of Julie, who is mixed race. This should always be taken into consideration when casting that particular role. The use of make-up or prosthetics to alter an actor's ethnicity is prohibited.

Casting Notes

Based on the 1926 novel by Edna Ferber and spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, Show Boat chronicles the lives of three generations of performers on the Cotton Blossom. The roles and ensembles indicated as African American should be cast accordingly. One pivotal plot point involves the character of Julie, who is mixed race. This should always be taken into consideration when casting that particular role. The use of make-up or prosthetics to alter an actor's ethnicity is prohibited.

Music

  • 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
Bassoon
Horn I&II
Trumpet I&II
Trombone
Violin A,B,C&D
Viola (Divisi)
Cello (Divisi)
Bass
Banjo/Guitar (Requires 2 Players)

Percussion
Trap Set
Timpani
Bells
Xylophone
Triangle
Chimes

Materials

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

Media

Press

Show Boat has become part of the American experience, part of our folklore, with ‘Ol’ Man River’ occupying a permanent place in our collective unconscious.” — The New Yorker

Excellent ...perilously close to being the best New York has seen...an exceptionally tuneful score...every ingredient that the perfect musical should have.” — The New York Times

Show Boat dates from 1927 but...it'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

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Authors

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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