Show Boat (Harold Prince Version)


Show Boat (Harold Prince Version)

Full-Length Musical, Comedy

Music by Jerome Kern
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber

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 (Harold Prince Version)

  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Adaptations (Literature), Period, Docudrama/Historic
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences, Adult
  • Winner! 1995 Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical
    Winner! 1995 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Musical



Since its premiere in 1927, Show Boat has never stopped moving. For over seven decades, this seminal musical has continued to evolve on a journey that has reflected the ongoing development of the lyric theatre, confirming its status as the pivotal work bridging operetta and contemporary musical theatre. After three film versions, numerous Broadway and London revivals, countless tours and several recordings, legendary director Harold Prince took the helm for a new Broadway production in 1994 that instantly became the blockbuster hit of the season. With Oscar Hammerstein's eldest son William serving as advisor, Prince studied all previous versions of Show Boat and, with the celebrated choreographer Susan Stroman, developed a version of the classic that was hailed as a triumph by critics and audiences alike.

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 her now-grown daughter with Magnolia's estranged husband, who returns offering a second chance at familial happiness.


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.


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 consisting of Stevedores (African American), their Gals (African American), Children, Townspeople along the Mississippi, and City Folk in Chicago.

Steve Baker – the leading man in the Show Boat Troupe
Queenie – the African American cook on the Show Boat
Pete – the engineer on the Show Boat
Parthy Ann Hawkes – Cap’n Andy’s wife
Windy – the pilot on the Show Boat
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, mixed ethnicity
Gaylord Ravenal – a handsome gambler
Sherrif Vallon – of Natchez
Magnolia Hawkes – Parthy and Andy’s daughter
Joe – Queenie’s husband, an African American stevedore
Card Dealer
Jeb – a backwoodsman
Another Backwoodsman
Young Kim – Magnolia and Ravenal’s 10-year-old daughter
Ethel – a boardinghouse cleaning woman
Mrs. O’Brien – a boardinghouse landlady
Mother Superior – at St. Agatha’s Convent
Jim Greene – the director of the floor show at the Trocadero Nightclub
Jake – the pianist at the Trocadero
Charlie – the doorman at the Trocadero
Lottie – an elegant lady of the evening
Dottie – her friend
A Drunk
A Radio Announcer
Old Lady on the Levee
Stevedores (African American), their Gals (African American), Children, Townspeople along the Mississippi, and City Folk in Chicago

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)


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 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


  • Hal Prince and Show Boat youtube thumbnail

    Hal Prince and Show Boat

  • "Ol' Man River" youtube thumbnail

    "Ol' Man River"

  • Show Boat 1994 Broadway Revival youtube thumbnail

    Show Boat 1994 Broadway Revival


  • Show Boat (Harold Prince Version)

    Image: 2006 Royal Albert Hall Production (Tristram Kenton)

  • Show Boat (Harold Prince Version)

    Image: 2006 Royal Albert Hall Production (Tristram Kenton)


Act I

1. Overture – Orchestra
2. “Cotton Blossom” – Ensemble
3. “Only Make Believe” – Ravenal, Magnolia
4. “Ol’ Man River” – Ravenal, Joe and Ensemble
5. “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” – Julie, Queenie, Joe, Magnolia and Ensemble
6. “Till Good Luck Comes My Way” – Ravenal and Male Ensemble
6a. Good Luck Playoff – Orchestra
7. “Misery” – Queenie and Ensemble
[There is no 7a or 7b]
7c. Miscegenation Underscore – Orchestra
8. “I Have The Room Above Her” – Ravenal and Magnolia
9. Cotton Blossom Underscore – Orchestra
10. “Life Upon The Wicked Stage” – Ellie and Female Ensemble
10a. Wicked Stage Playoff – Orchestra
11. “Queenie’s Ballyhoo” – Queenie and Ensemble
12. Parson’s Bride Underscore – Orchestra
12a. Underscore: I Might Fall Back  – Orchestra
13. “You Are Love” – Ravenal and Magnolia
14. Act I Finale: “The Wedding” – Company

Act II

15. Entr’acte – Orchestra
16. “Why Do I Love You?” – Ravenal, Magnolia and Ensemble
17. Montage 1: “Dandies On Parade” – Ensemble
18. Letter Underscore – Orchestra
19. “Alma Redemptoris”/”Ol’ Man River”/”Make Believe” – Nuns/Joe/Ravenal
20. The Washington Post – Orchestra
21. “Bill” – Julie
22. “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (Reprise)” – Magnolia
23. Palm Court Music – Orchestra
24. Washington Post (Reprise) – Orchestra
25. “Good-Bye, My Lady Love” – Ellie and Frank
25a. Lady Love Playoff – Orchestra
25b. Underscore: I Still Suits Me – Orchestra
26. “After The Ball” – Magnolia, Andy and Ensemble
27. Montage 2: “Ol’ Man River (Reprise)” – Joe
27a. “Dance Away The Night” – Magnolia
28. “You Are Love (Reprise)” – Ravenal
29. It’s Getting Hotter in the North – Orchestra
30. “Kim’s Charleston” – Kim, Parthy and Ensemble
30a. Show’s Starting – Orchestra
31. Act II Finale: “Ol’ Man River” – Joe and Company
32. Bows: “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” – Company
33. Exit Music – Orchestra

Full Orchestration

Reed I (Flute, Piccolo)
Reed II (Flute, Clarinet)
Reed III (Oboe, English Horn)
Reed IV (Clarinet)
Reed V (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet)
Reed VI (Bassoon, Tenor Sax)
Horn I&II
Trumpet I&II
Violin A-B-C
Viola A-B

Trap Set
Suspended Cymbal
Crash Cymbal
Wood Blocks
Temple Blocks
2 Timpani

ORCHESTRA NOTE: The scores and parts you will be using for your production of Show Boat (Harold Prince Version) are photographic reproductions of the actual materials used in the orchestra pit for the 1992 revival of this version of the musical. The instrumental parts may be marked and/or edited by the original players. The piano-vocal score contains minimal orchestral cues. As such these materials have not yet been edited to our usual standards. There may be minor discrepancies between the scores and parts that have not yet been brought to our attention. However they are eminently readable and playable. Your musical director may want to refer to the full score (partitur), which is also available for rental. Please feel free to contact us should you discover anything in this edition that impedes your musical preparation of this remarkable version of this magnificent score.

  • Musical Style Classic Broadway, Operetta
  • Dance Requirements Difficult
  • Vocal DemandsModerate
  • Orchestra Size Large
  • Chorus Size Large

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 I Part 1
1 Full Score Act I Part 2
1 Full Score Act II Part 1
1 Full Score Act II Part 2
22 Libretto
23 Piano1Vocal
1 Reed 1
1 Reed 2
1 Reed 3
1 Reed 4
1 Reed 5
1 Reed 6
2 Horn 1 & 2
2 Trumpet 1 & 2
1 Trombone
1 Trombone/Tuba
2 Drums/Percussion
1 Piano/Synthesizer
1 Harp
1 Guitar/Banjo
3 Violin A-B-C
2 Viola A-B
1 Cello
1 Bass
1 Logo Pack
22 Libretto
23 Piano-Vocal
1 Logo Pack


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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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