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Show Boat

Programme cover from 1972 London Production

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)


The story starts in the 1880s on one of the many American riverboats that featured travelling shows. It follows the lives and loves of the troupe that work aboard the Cotton Blossom under the command of Cap'n Andy and his wife Parthy Ann. In Natchez they come up against racial prejudice when the sheriff discovers that the leading lady, Julie, is a half-caste. He does not allow mixed shows in his town. The Captain's daughter, Magnolia, steps in to save the show together with her love, the handsome gambler Gaylord Ravenal. Gaylord also has problems with the sheriff over a little matter of gambling debts. Magnolia and Gaylord leave the relative security of the Cotton Blossom to go and live in Chicago where, for a few years they are happy. Gaylord's luck in

winning at gambling eventually makes way for losing and soon his gambling losses cause him to leave his wife and their daughter, Kim.

Two of the old showboat song-and-dance pair, Frank and Ellie, have become successful on the vaudeville circuit and they meet up with Magnolia. Realising her desperate situation they get her a job as a singer at the Trocadero to replace the, by now alcoholic, Julie La Verne, the same Julie La Verne who used to be the Show Boat star.

Years later, both Magnolia and Kim are radio stars and Cap'n Andy organises a reunion of the old team aboard the Cotton Blossom and invites them. It is the ideal opportunity for them to be reunited with the now reformed Gaylord. Frank and Ellie stop off to greet their old colleagues en route to Hollywood.

Running throughout the story is the story of Joe, a coloured stevedore and his girl, Queenie and their role in a predominantly white environment where the coloured folk are very much considered second class citizens - if they are considered at all.

Revived in a sensational RSC/Opera North production and by Livent, this magnificent show is rightly recognised as a classic among musicals.
Show Boat
contains the best of everything - a great story, moving lyrics, and music that is played and loved the world over.
Songs include "Why Do I Love You", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "Bill" and "Ol' Man River". 


Principals - 5 male, 5 female

  • Magnolia Hawkes Ravenal - A Singer
  • Gaylord Ravenal - A Gambler
  • Captain Andy Hawkes - Magnolia's Father
  • Julie La Verne - a singer
  • Joe - a Stevedore
  • Parthy Ann Hawkes - Magnolia's mother
  • Queenie - Joe's Girl
  • Ellie May Chipley - a soubrette
  • Frank Schultz - A character actor/singer
  • Steve Baker - Julie's husband
  • Windy
  • Pete
  • Rubber Face
  • Vallon
  • Faro Dealer
  • Gambler
  • Backwoodsman
  • Jeb
  • Three Barkers
  • Old Sport
  • Landlady
  • Ethel
  • Jake
  • Announcer at the Trocadero
  • Lottie
  • Kim
  • Drunks
  • Children
  • Men

Musical Numbers:


Pictured is a scene from Livent's epic production of Show Boat directed by Harold Prince. "The Wedding Celebration" with L-R Dan Tullis, Jr as Joe, Patti Cohenour as Magnolia, Hugh Panaro as Ravenal, John McMartin as Cap'n Andy, Cloris Leachman as Parthy and Michael Fletcher as the Sheriff.
(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)


  1. Opening, Cotton Blossom - Stevedores and Gals, Town Beaux, Mincing MIsses
    Captain Andy's Entrance and Bally-Hoo - Company & Parthy
    Where's The Mate For Me? - Ravenal
  2. Make Believe - Ravenal and Magnolia
  3. Ol' Man River - Joe and Male Chorus
  4. Opening, Scene II
  5. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man - Julie, Queenie, Magnolia, Joe and Mixed Quartet
  6. Opening, Scene III
  7. Scene III
  8. Scene IV
  9. Life Upon The Wicked Stage - Ellie and Girls
  10. Queenie's Bally-Hoo and Dance - Queenie
  11. Scene V
  12. Villain's Dance (Frank's Speciality)
  13. Scene VI, Introduction and Duet: You Are Love - Ravenal and Magnolia
  14. Scene VII, Finale - Company


  1. Entr'acte
  2. Prelude and Opening
  3. Incidental: Fatima's 2nd Dance
  4. Why Do I Love You? - Magnolia and Ravenal
  5. Dahomey - Chorus
  6. Scene II
    20a. Boarding House Finale
  7. Scene III
  8. Bill - Julie
  9. Reprise: Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man - Magnolia
    23a. Reprise Continued - Magnolia with Frank
  10. Scene IV
  11. 25-26. Scene V, Introduction
  12. and Ballet Dance - Orchestra plays "Washington Post March" (Sousa)
  13. Schultz and Schultz
  14. After The Ball (music by Chas K. Harris) - Magnolia
  15. Happy New Year
  16. Scene VI, Reprise: Ol' Man River - Joe
  17. Scene VII
  18. Reprise: You Are Love (Magnolia as voice on radio)
  19. Scene VIII
  20. Finale - Company

Scenes and Settins


Scene 1: The Levee At Natchez on the Mississippi
Scene 2: Kitchen Pantry of the "Cotton Blossom"
Scene 3: The Auditorium and Stage of the "Cotton Blossom"
Scene 4: Box Office on Fore-Deck of the "Cotton Blossom"
Scene 5: Auditorium and Stage of the "Cotton Blossom" During Third Act of "The Parson's Bride"
Scene 6: Upper Deck of the "Cotton Blossom"
Scene 7: Levee Beside the "Cotton Blossom"


Scene 1: The Midway Plaisance at the Chicago World's Fair
Scene 2: A Room on Ontario Street in Chicago
Scene 3: The Trocadero Rehearsal Room
Scene 4: St. Agatha's Convent
Scene 5: Opening, Trocadero
Scene 6: Stern of Show Boat
Scene 7: Upper Deck of the "Cotton Blossom"
Scene 8: Levee at Natchez


flute db. piccolo, oboe db. cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, percussion, banjo, strings

Vocal Score and Libretto available on hire only