Show Boat Paddling to Westchester Broadway Theatre

Show Boat, perhaps the most successful and influential Broadway musical play ever written, is from Composer, Jerome Kern and lyricist and librettist, Oscar Hammerstein II.

When Jerome Kern first spoke to Edna Ferber about his idea to create a musical from her novel, Show Boat, the author thought he was crazy. The conventional musical theater during the 1920’s was comparable to Vaudeville, with side-show attractions and comedic routines.
He eventually convinced Ferber by explaining to her his plans for a revolutionary new approach to musical theater.

With Show Boat, a new art form emerged for the first time: the musical play as distinguished from musical comedy. It had dramatic truth, a plot with a logical, believable line and a love story that rang true. It had three-dimensional characters, authenticity of background, atmosphere, as well as dialogue and lyrics that were fresh and imaginative.

Spanning the years from 1880 to 1927, this lyrical masterpiece concerns the lives, loves and heartbreaks of three generations of show folk on the Mississippi, in Chicago and on Broadway.  Show Boat is rich with nostalgia, humor, love stories and well-loved melodies.  In addition, the play certainly deals with challenging themes.  Show Boat investigates such topics as race relations, miscegenation and unhappy marriages while remaining entertaining and musically beautiful.

It was the first time that serious black and white characters held the stage together as equals. The show was meant as a statement against racism. Harold Prince said that Kern and Hammerstein’s score to Show Boat is “a tremendous expression of the ethics of tolerance and compassion”.

Throughout pre-production and rehearsal, he said, “I was committed to eliminate any inadvertent stereotype in the original material, dialogue which may seem “Uncle Tom” today… However, I was determined not to rewrite history. The fact that during the 45-year period depicted in our musical there were lynchings, imprisonment, and forced labor of the blacks in the United States is irrefutable. Indeed, the United States still cannot hold its head high with regard to racism.”

Show Boat opened at The Ziegfeld Theater on December 27, 1927. The critics were immediately enthusiastic, and the show was a great popular success, running a year and a half, for a total of 572 performances. It has been revived half a dozen times since then and filmed three times. Songs from the musical such as Ol Man River and Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man have become famous in their own right and have been covered by various pop artists in the billboard charts.

It has been revived half a dozen times since then and filmed three times. Songs from the musical such as Ol Man River and Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man have become famous in their own right and have been covered by various pop artists in the billboard charts.

Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production, Directed by Richard Stafford, will run from 9/24 to 11/29/15 and returns 12/30/15 -1/31/16.  Visit www.broadwaytheatre.com or call (914)592-2222.

 

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About the Author: Pia Haas