Show Boat (Goodspeed Version)


Show Boat (Goodspeed Version)

Full-Length Musical, Drama  /  5w, 4m

Music by Jerome Kern
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber
Adapted by Rob Ruggiero

This classic musical, centered around the Hawkes family, follows forty years in the lives of the people connected with a Mississippi River show boat. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love.

Image: 2006 Royal Albert Hall Production (Tristram Kenton)

Show Boat (Goodspeed Version)

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    5w, 4m
  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Adaptations (Literature), Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences, Adult



Created for a Reduced Cast and Orchestra.

Spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, this lyrical masterpiece, centered around the Mississippi show boat Cotton Blossom, concerns the lives, loves and heartbreaks of three generations of show folk and their lifelong friends. Show Boat follows the story of the Hawkes family, including the captain’s naive daughter Magnolia, who wants to be a performer, as she marries a gambler and moves with him to Chicago. When his debts compound,he deserts her and their young daughter. Magnolia's selfless best friend Julie, a performer on the Cotton Blossom, faces arrest on charges of miscegenation, which is illegal, and she spirals into despair. The passing of time reunites Magnolia and hernow-grown daughter with Magnolia's estranged husband, who returns offering a second chance at familial happiness.

This version of Show Boat was originally produced by Goodspeed Musicals; Michael P. Price, Executive Director; adapted and directed by Rob Ruggiero.


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.

The ensemble for Show Boat features a Black singing and dancing ensemble and a non-Black singing and dancing ensemble. Doubling is indicated by a slash and a cast of 24 is suggested.

Captain Andy Hawks - 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
Parthy Ann Hawks - Captain Andy's wife
Julie LaVerne - Steve's wife, the leading lady in the Show Boat Troupe, mixed ethnicity
Queenie - the African American cook on the Show Boat
Gaylord Ravenal - a handsome gambler
Magnolia Hawkes - Parthy and Andy's daughter
Joe - Queenie's husband, an African American stevedore
Kim, a child - Magnolia and Ravenal's 10-year-old daughter
Steve Baker - the leading man in the Show Boat Troupe / Ensemble
Pete Gavin - the engineer on the Show Boat / Jeb, another Backwoodsman / Ensemble
Windy - the pilot / Jim Greene / Ensemble
Willy - a stagehand / a Backwoodsman / Ensemble
Sheriff Ike Vallon / Ensemble
Town Girl #1 / A Governess / Lottie, a young lady / Ensemble
Town Girl #2 / Nun #1 / Dottie, a young lady / Ensemble
Town Girl #3 / Nun #2 / Kim, an adult / Ensemble
Mrs. O’Brien, a landlady / Mother Superior / Old Lady / Ensemble
Jake, a piano player / Ensemble
Charlie, a doorman / Ensemble
Ensemble (3)

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 ethnicity. 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.

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 ethnicity. 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.

  • Time Period 1920s, 1910s / WWI, 1900-1910, 19th Century
  • Setting Along the Mississippi River and in Chicago. 1887–1927.
  • Features Period Costumes
  • Duration More than 120 minutes (2 hours)


“Goodspeed Musical’s delicious revival…proves that you can revisit and rethink a classic in a way that honors the original.” — Jacques Lamarre, Broadway World

“SMALL BOAT, BIG SHOW!... Show Boat is a three-hour long extravaganza… That spells big bucks, and now that America’s financially beleaguered regional theater companies are increasingly turning to small-scale productions of surefire shows, revivals of Show Boat have become fewer and farther between… Now Goodspeed Musicals has triumphantly solved the Show Boat problem. Rob Ruggiero’s heart-lifting new revival succeeds in shoehorning Show Boat onto a very small stage without compromising its expansive spirit in any way… Mr. Ruggiero has skillfully trimmed the score and streamlined the book with an eye toward making Show Boat more practical to produce… [His version] deserves to be seen widely… I hope it will encourage other companies that long to perform America’s first great musical but are afraid of busting their budgets.” – Wall Street Journal

“This grand, glorious and smart production…captures the sweep of the themes while zeroing in on the story… Director Rob Ruggiero creates a production that is all of a piece, that has both sweep and intimacy and is nothing less than a minor miracle of staging.” – Hartford Courant

“It took the Goodspeed Opera House to prove it, but size doesn’t matter! That’s right, although it may be on a much smaller stage in a compact, jewel-box of a theater, but Goodspeed Musicals’ current adaptation…is a full-fledged sprawling revelation… Not for a minute does one feel shortchanged by this production, which makes subtle, generally unnoticeable cuts to the book and judiciously trims a few unremarkable songs and extended dance music from the overall score. Met with approval by the Hammerstein, Kern and Ferber estates, director Rob Ruggiero’s delightful, rewarding and ultimately moving production is more of an accommodation to the limitations of a smaller stage rather than an overall rethinking of the musical. In fact, this production will no doubt open doors to Show Boat being staged by theaters previously intimidated by the size and scope of the musical landmark… Ruggiero’s take [is] able to fit the richness of the score and epic scope of the plot into an economic model that can ensure the work’s preservation for years to come.” – Hartford Examiner


  • Highlights From "Show Boat" at Goodspeed Opera House youtube thumbnail

    Highlights From "Show Boat" at Goodspeed Opera House


  • Show Boat (Goodspeed Version)

    Image: 2006 Royal Albert Hall Production (Tristram Kenton)

  • Show Boat (Goodspeed Version)

    Image: 2006 Royal Albert Hall Production (Tristram Kenton)


Act I

1. Overture/“Cotton Blossom” – Stevedores
1a. “Cotton Blossom Arrival” – Ellie, Frank, Steve, Julie and Ensemble
1b. Andy’s Entrance – Orchestra
1c. “Andy’s Ballyhoo” – Captain Andy
1d. Frank and Ellie’s Dance – Orchestra
1e. “Cotton Blossom” Tag – Ensemble
2. “Where’s The Mate For Me?” – Ravenal
3. “Make Believe” – Ravenal & Magnolia
3a. Joe Underscore – Orchestra
4. “Ol’ Man River” – Joe & Stevedores
4a. Kitchen Transition – Orchestra
4b. Julie Underscore – Orchestra
5. “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” – Julie
5a. Rehearsal Underscore – Orchestra
6. “Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’“ – Queenie and Ensemble
6a. Make Believe Underscore – Orchestra
6b. “Mis’ry” (Reprise) – Queen and Ensemble
6c. “Ol’ Man River (Reprise)” – Joe
6d. Cotton Blossom Transition – Orchestra
7. “Life Upon The Wicked Stage” – Ellie & Girls
7a. Water Barrel Transition – Orchestra
8. “You Are Love” – Ravenal & Magnolia
9. “Finale, Act I” – Company

Act II

10. Entr’acte/Opening, Act II (“Why Do I Love You?”) – Ravenal and Men
11. “Alma Redemptoris”/”Only Make Believe (Reprise)” – Joe and Nuns/Ravenal
12. Trocadero Transition – Orchestra
13. “Bill” – Julie
14. “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (Reprise)” – Magnolia
14a. “Can’t Help Lovin’ (Rag)” – Magnolia and Jake
14b. Street Scene Transition – Orchestra
14c. Into the Trocadero – Orchestra
15. “Goodbye My Lady Love” – Ellie & Frank
15a. Party Music  (How’d Ya Like To Spoon With Me) – Orchestra
16. “After The Ball” – Magnolia and Ensemble
17. Happy New Year/”Ol’ Man River (Reprise)” – Joe
18. “I Still Suits Me” – Joe & Queenie
19. “You Are Love (Reprise)” – Ravenal
20. Finale: “Ol’ Man River” – Company
21. Curtain Call/Finale Ultimo (“Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man”) – Company
22. Exit Music

Full Orchestration

Reed I
Reed II
Trumpet I
Trumpet II
Keyboard I
Keyboard II

  • Musical Style Classic Broadway
  • Dance Requirements Difficult
  • Vocal DemandsModerate
  • Orchestra Size Medium
  • Chorus Size Medium

Licensing & Materials

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.

    PLEASE BE ADVISED: There are multiple versions of this title. Before you proceed, please double-check to ensure that you are applying for the version you want. We will not be able to refund rental or shipping fees if you pay for the wrong version. If you’re not sure which version best suits your needs, you may purchase a perusal for each available version.

Music Rentals

Concord offers a full suite of resources to help you put on the show of a lifetime!
1 Full Score Act 1
1 Full Score Act 2
26 Libretto-Vocal
1 Piano-Vocal
1 Reed 1
1 Reed 2
1 Trumpet 1
1 Trumpet 2
1 Trombone
1 Keyboard 1
1 Keyboard 2
1 Guitar
1 Drums
1 Violin
1 Bass
26 Libretto-Vocal
1 Piano-Vocal


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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 newspaper ...

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Rob Ruggiero

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