Shows S

SHOW BOAT A Musical in 2 Acts. Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber. Music by Jerome Kern First performance at the Ziegfeld Theatre, 27 December, 1927: Produced by FLORENZ ZIEGFELD Dances and Ensembles Staged by SAMMY LEE: Dialogue Staged by ZEKE COLVAN: Settings by JOSEPH URBAN Costumes Designed by JOHN HARK RIDER: Jubilee Singers Directed by WILL VOUDRY Musical Direction by VICTOR BARAVALLE Ziegfeld Theatre Broadway 27 December, 1927 (575 perfs) London Drury Lane 3 May 1928 (350 perfs) STORY Act I In 1887, the showboat Cotton Blossom arrives at the river dock in Natchez, Mississippi. The Reconstruction era had ended a decade earlier, and white-dominated Southern legislatures have imposed racial segregation and Jim Crow rules. The boat’s owner, Cap’n Andy Hawks, introduces his actors to the crowd on the levee. A fistfight breaks out between Steve Baker, the leading man of the troupe, and Pete, a rough engineer who had been making passes at Steve’s wife, the leading lady Julie La Verne. Steve knocks Pete down, and Pete swears revenge, suggesting he knows a dark secret about Julie. Cap’n Andy pretends to the shocked crowd that the fight was a preview of one of the melodramas to be performed. The troupe exits with the showboat band, and the crowd follows. A handsome riverboat gambler, Gaylord Ravenal, appears on the levee and is taken with eighteen-year-old Magnolia (“Nolie”) Hawks, an aspiring performer and the daughter of Cap’n Andy and his wife Parthenia Ann (Parthy Ann). Magnolia is likewise smitten with Ravenal (“Make Believe”). She seeks advice from Joe, a black dock worker aboard the boat, who has returned from buying flour for his wife Queenie, the ship’s cook. He replies that he has “seen a lot like [Ravenal] on the river.” As Magnolia goes inside the boat to tell her friend Julie about the handsome stranger, Joe mutters that she ought to ask the river for advice. He and the other dock workers reflect on the wisdom and indifference of “Ol’ Man River”, who does not seem to care what the world’s troubles are, but “jes’ keeps rollin’ along”. Magnolia finds Julie inside and announces that she is in love. Julie cautions her that this stranger could be just a “no-account river feller”. Magnolia says that if she found out he was “no-account”, she would stop loving him. Julie warns her that it is not that easy to stop loving someone, explaining that she will always love Steve and singing a few lines of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”. Queenie overhears – she is surprised that Julie knows that song as she has only heard “coloured folks” sing it. Magnolia remarks that Julie sings it all the time, and when Queenie asks if she can sing the entire song, Julie obliges. During the rehearsal for that evening, Julie and Steve learn that the town sheriff is coming to arrest them. Steve takes out a large pocketknife and makes a cut on the back of her hand, sucking the blood and swallowing it. Pete returns with the sheriff, who insists the show cannot proceed because Julie is a mulatto who has been passing as white and local law prohibits mixed marriages. Julie admits that her mother was black, but Steve tells the sheriff that he also has “black blood” in him, so their marriage is legal in Mississippi. The troupe backs him up, boosted by the ship’s pilot Windy McClain, a long-time friend of the sheriff. The couple have escaped the charge of miscegenation, but they still must leave the showboat; identified as black, they can no longer perform for the segregated white audience. Cap’n Andy fires Pete, but despite his sympathy for Julie and Steve, he cannot violate the law for them. Ravenal returns and asks for passage on the boat. Andy hires him as the new leading man and assigns his daughter Magnolia as the new leading lady, over her mother’s objections. As Magnolia and Ravenal begin