When a huge cache of musical theatre scripts, scores and orchestra parts were discovered in Warner Brothers' warehouse in Secaucus, NJ in 1982, among them was a great deal of material for Show Boat. Historian Robert Kimball, who was hired to catalog the discovery, later in a New York Times article, "No one conceived that so much Kern material had survived. [snip] There were 11 boxes, including thousands of pages, and more than 200 manuscripts written in Kern's own hand. Among them were many original manuscripts for Show Boat."
Without a doubt Show Boat is one of, if not the most, recorded American musical. Because the show has had multiple revisions, we have listed every bit of music we could find under it's respective 'Used in' section. We are of the belief that this is the most accurate and complete song list available. Please be aware that some numbers were not used in the original production, and that many were small fragments and very easily recognized by an audience member. Also, while scene titles are not something we are in a habit of listing, they are so recognizable we felt they should be included.
Songs cut prior to opening on Broadway
Edna Ferber (who wrote the source novel) and composer Jerome Kern were introduced by Alexander Woollcott at the opening of Kern's Criss Cross in 1926. Ferber was not keen on the adaptation of her novel to the stage at first because most musicals were fluffy and shallow. But Kern relented, convinced that he could do something with it. She eventually agreed.
Theatre lore says that Florenz Ziegfeld was hesitant to produce Show Boat because it lacked the conventions of 1920s musical comedy (light and frothy). However, after hearing part of the score in November 1926, Ziegfeld wrote to tenor Harry Fender expressing his excitement about the show and hinting that Fender may be good as Ravenal.
The show had a particularly long gestation period. Ziegfeld was accustomed to have act one delivered and put into rehearsal while the writers finished act two. However, with Show Boat, the script was delayed considerably due to its complexity. Hammerstein and Kern had a great respect for Ferber's novel and wanted to make the show into something different than a typical musical comedy. They paid a great deal of attention to character development and writing the songs so that they grew out of the story.
Because of this, Ziegfeld complained bitterly in telegrams to Kern.
The Trocadero mentioned in Act Two was a real nightclub in Chicago at the time of the World's Fair. It was opened by the father of Show Boat's producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. The younger Ziegfeld's first job managing theatre was as a manager of the Trocadero. The location of the building is murky as it moved around quite a bit. Articles published in 1893 give its location as being at 16th & Michigan in Chicago. An article published in 1934 looking back at the Trocadero lists it as being located at that time at Monroe and Michigan.
An undisputed landmark in the world of musical theatre, Show Boat was the first serious musical and boasted (unlike other musicals of the day) well-constructed story and characters.
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