Essay about Showboat: A Revolutionary Production

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Showboat; a Revolutionary Production
The 1900’s were a time for great transformations and growth within the theatrical community. Of all types of theater that were developed during that period, musical theater matured into a more respected and widely desired form of entertainment. Musical theater transformed from blackface minstrel shows with gag productions into pieces of reputable theater. One of the most influential productions in making that turn into sophistication is Showboat. Based on the novel by Edna Ferber Showboat was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (Smith 627). Showboat was premiered in the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927 (Smith 627). The 1926 novel chronicled the lives of a musical and racially
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Regardless of what any critic labels it, Showboat was a change in theater during a time when very little changes were being made. Many productions during the 1920’s were diluted into a simple formula. Add in some dancing girls, gag tricks and “happy go lucky” musical numbers and one has a generic 1920’s musical production. As stated by Stanley Green, “it [1920 era] was not a period distinguished by many changes in the structure of the musical comedy theatre. Of all the musicals written and produced during that decade, only Showboat was able to offer a truly adult libretto combined with superior music and lyrics” (2). Jerome Kern, the primary lyricist, started his writing career at The Princess Theatre where he made conscientious efforts to create a new form of musical comedy, but in his efforts only Showboat is considered a classic because it broke so many musical comedy taboos (Green 71). He was assisted by Oscar Hammerstein II in his efforts to mold Showboat into a new age production. Showboat’s “musical integration and before it’s time characterization has put itself in a class of its own; “[s]ome have gone so far as to say that if there is ever to be an American school of opera, this is the model upon which it must be based” (Howard 666). The major difference between Showboat and other productions of its time was the fluidity and depth Kern creates. Roy Hemming writes, “Kern’s pioneering work in integrating songs and text

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