Showboat, the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II musical about life upon the wicked stage with a stage that's floating down the Mississippi, is often credited as the first musical with a story integrated with its score as well as the first musical with both black and white performers singing together on stage. Showboat was based on a novel by Edna Ferber, a novel that told the story of three generations of the Hawks family. When it begins in the latter part of the 19th century, Captain Andy Hawks owns a river boat called the Cotton Blossom that stops to put on shows at towns along the Mississippi. As Ferber weaves her story through the years, moving from the Cotton Blossom to Chicago and Broadway and back to the boat, she tells a story about show biz ups and downs, the danger of life on the river, faithless men, and friends and lovers torn apart when post-Civil War racism rears its ugly head.
Most of those elements are retained in Hammerstein's book for the musical Show Boat, with an emotional boost from songs like "Ol' Man River," "Make Believe" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." With the title now two words instead of one, Hammerstein sweetened the ending and tweaked the characters and plot a bit. The show connected with audiences right from the start and has been revived again and again. The original 1927 production was way too early for Tony Awards, but the 1994 revival took home a pile of them.
|The NY Philharmonic's concert staging for Show Boat with Norm Lewis at front|
Our local PBS -- WILL in Urbana and WTVP in Peoria -- will both air Show Boat tonight, October 16, at 8 pm. Check your cable or broadcast TV guides for the number that gives you in your household, but they are at 12 (WILL) and 13 (WTVP) on my Comcast listings.
If you would like to see some video to whet your appetite as well as give you an idea what "semi-staged" means in this context, click here to see the Live from Lincoln Center site. You will also notice that "Mis'ry's Comin' Round" is included, sung by NaTasha Yvette Williams as Queenie. The song was cut during previews for the original Broadway production but restored for the 1994 production. And it certainly sounds worth your time in this one.
Thanks, Live from Lincoln Center!