Tuesday, October 1, 2013

MT Soundtracker: Day 1

Let's get started. If you missed the post introducing the project, you can view it here.

Cover of Show Boat recording conducted by John McGlinn
EMI Studio cast album cover (1988)
You can just about make out the names of the cast members!

Show Boat (1927)

EMI Studio cast album (1988)

Note: This recording was the first to feature the original Broadway orchestrations and vocal arrangements. No original Broadway cast recording exists.
Music: Jerome Kern
Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II

Plot summary: Magnolia, the daughter of show boat Cotton Blossom's captain, falls in love with Gaylord Ravenal, a young man with a gambling addiction. They get married and have a daughter but Ravenal keeps gambling and eventually deserts his wife and child. Magnolia takes up a singing job to earn a living and eventually ends up back on the show boat. 

I realised Show Boat was not the easiest musical I could have chosen for this because there have been several recordings over the years and the songs vary between different versions. Luckily I found this 1988 recording which is musically a replication of the original Broadway version. The earliest existing recording of Show Boat is the original London cast recording from 1928. However, the quality of the audio on that is fairly poor not to mention that it does not contain as many songs as this original Broadway replica.
Show Boat was a fascinating listen in my opinion because, and I apologise for being young and ignorant, I did not expect the music to sound so similar to the legit musical theatre sound I learned to know (for those who don't know me, I quite like the operatic sort of musical theatre sound). One thinks Rodgers and Hammerstein have originated it all but listening to this I realised that is absolutely not the case. Jerome Kern was a great figure in shaping musical theatre and popular music having written hundreds of songs but he is, sadly, fairly unknown to my generation and out of the shows he took part in creating, Show Boat is really the only one that still gets revived regularly. There's also Roberta which at least I have heard of. 
I don't know tons of technical music terminology so apologies to anyone who's looking something technically articulate for this section. However, I can say the music reminded me of a more serious version of something by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Something in between their work and Rodgers and Hart maybe. 

Famous songs: Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, Bill, Ol' Man River; I also recognised Goodbye, My Lady Love
Goodbye, My Lady Love was my favourite track. It was the catchy one I ended up singing to myself after I had finished listening to the soundtrack. 
Note: Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man is on several 'songs overdone at auditions' lists so I wouldn't recommend picking that up as a primary repertoire song if you want to be on the safe side.

Historical context
Show Boat is historically a highly significant musical. It was one of the first musical theatre shows to involve character development and the use of song and dance to carry the plot forward (a convention now synonymous with musical theatre). Many people still consider Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! to be the first to include this where, in fact, it had already been experimented with almost two decades earlier. Another factor which made Show Boat so revolutionary was the use of African-American actors and the way in which the musical boldly dealt with serious and current issues such as racism. The portrayal of racial stereotypes of the time and particularly the fact that a white man had written lyrics which imitated the African-American speech caused, and still continues to cause, uproar among the public and Show Boat remains a controversial piece of theatre. 


  1. Showboat on tosi hieno teos ja perustuu muuten Edna Ferberin romaaniin, mikä usein tekee juonesta kiinnostavamman. Olen ehdottomasti sitä mieltä että vanhat klassikot voivat aina hyvällä tavalla yllättää uusia sukupolvia. Eli niitäkin kannattaa kuunnella! :)

    1. Joo, näitä vanhempia musikaaleja tulee vähemmän kuunneltua vaikka tykkään laulaa tämän tyyppistä. Ihan jo yleissivistyksenkin kannalta tuntuu, että pitäis pikkasen tietää näitä klassikoita :)