Tuesday, December 27, 1977

December 27, 1927: Show Boat opened on Broadway

Originally posted August 11, 2008. Last updated September 3, 2018.

Show Boat (cast/soundtrack)

Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II (composers)

Opened on Broadway: December 27, 1927

Cast Album Recorded: 1928

Soundtrack Charted: July 21, 1951

Sales (in millions):
US: --
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): --

US: 119-S
Canada: --
Australia: --

C cast album
S soundtrack

Quotable: “Generally considered to be the first true American ‘musical play’” – Wikipedia

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks:

  1. Overture
  2. Cotton Blossom
  3. Make Believe
  4. Ol’ Man River
  5. Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man
  6. Life Upon the Wicked Stage
  7. Till Good Luck Comes My Way
  8. I Might Fall Back on You
  9. Queenie’s Ballyhoo
  10. Olio Dance
  11. You Are Love
  12. Act I Finale
  13. At the Chicago World’s Fair
  14. Why Do I Love You?
  15. Bill
  16. After the Ball
* Original song order from 1927 show.

Singles/Hit Songs *:

After the Ball
- George J. Gaskin (1893) #1
- John Yorke Atlee (1893) #2

Ol’ Man River
- Paul Whiteman with Bing Crosby (1928) #1
- Al Jolson (1928) #4
- Paul Robeson with Paul Whiteman (1928) #7
- Revelers (1928) #10
- Luis Russell (1934) #19

- Helen Morgan (1928) #4

Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man
- Helen Morgan (1928) #7
- Ben Bernie (1928) #19

Make Believe
- Paul Whiteman with Bing Crosby (1928) #7

Why Do I Love You
- Nat Shilkret (1928) #9

You Are Love
- James Melton with Victor Young Orchestra (1932) #20

* As was common in the pre-rock era, multiple versions of a single song from a Broadway show would become hits. All chart positions are from the U.S. Billboard pop charts.


Show Boat “is generally considered to be the first true American ‘musical play’.” WK It separated itself from the operettas, light musical comedies, and Follies-type musical revues of the 1890s and early 20th century by telling a dramatic plot-and-character driven story accompanied by music. WK

The musical, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II, was based on Ednar Ferber’s 1926 novel of the same name. WK The show works in a few songs not by Kern and Hammerstein, including Bill, written by P.G. Wodehouse in 1918, but reworked by Hammerstein for Show Boat. Goodbye, My Lady Love by Joseph Howard and After the Ball by Charles K. Harris have become mainstays in the American stage productions of the show as well. WK

The show opened on Broadway on December 27, 1927 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, where it ran for a year and a half. The 1928 London cast album was released in England before the United States. Since the U.S. had not started making original cast albums of Broadway shows, there was no album made of the 1927 Broadway cast. WK However, for the 1932 revival of the musical, a cast album was made featuring Helen Morgan and Paul Robeson, who were both in the original American and London casts of Show Boat, E-C alongside “James Melton, Frank Munn, and Countess Olga Albani” WK and an orchestra conducted by Victor Young. WK The recordings of “Ol’ Man River and a Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man…are truly authoritative. The…sound is astonishingly good.” E-C

The show was revived again in 1946, 1983, and 1994. WK Similarly, cast album recordings have been made multiple times, including 1946, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1971, 1988, and 1994. It was also made into a movie in 1936 with members from the original Broadway and London productions. It was made into a movie again in 1951 although it “was prettied up considerably and reshaped almost beyond recognition. On the other hand, Howard Keel’s baritone is one of the most pleasing voices in movies of that era, and teamed with Kathryn Grayson’s fluttering alto, the results are beguiling on songs like Only Make Believe.” E-S It “wasn’t treated too seriously by most purists until the 1990s, when it emerged as a minor classic in its own right.” E-S

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