The “landmark 1927 show, Show Boat” (NRR) “is a musical in two acts with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. One notable exception is the song Bill, which was originally written for Kern in 1918 by P. G. Wodehouse but reworked by Hammerstein for Show Boat. Two other songs not by Kern and Hammerstein – Goodbye, My Lady Love by Joseph Howard and After the Ball by Charles K. Harris – are always interpolated into American stage productions of the show” (wikipedia).
“Show Boat is based on a 1926 novel of the same name by Edna Ferber and is generally considered to be the first true American ‘musical play’ – a dramatic form with popular music, separate from operettas, light musical comedies of the 1890s and early 20th century (e.g., Florodora), and the ‘Follies’-type musical revues that preceded it. In many ways, it took the plot-and-character-centered ‘Princess Musicals’ that Kern had developed with Bolton and Wodehouse in the previous decade and broadened their scope” (wikipedia).
“George S. Kaufman and George Gershwin’s Strike Up the Band, which previewed earlier that year, clearly made similar leaps, although their subject matter was satirical and farcical. Unlike Strike Up the Band and the ‘Princess Theatre’ musicals, though, Show Boat was sentimental and somewhat tragic; it also displayed the style of a musical epic, contrasted with an intimate show with two sets and only a few characters” (wikipedia).
“The show opened on Broadway at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York on December 27, 1927, where it ran for a year and a half…After its closing in 1929, the show was revived on Broadway in 1932…, in 1946…, in 1983…, and in 1994” (wikipedia).
“The 1928 original London cast album [was] released in England on 78rpm records years before being sold in the United States. Because the U.S. had not yet begun making original cast albums of Broadway shows, it led to the unusual situation of there being an original London cast album of Show Boat but not of the 1927 Broadway cast” (wikipedia). “Brunswick Records recorded 10…selections from the musical in 1932 and issued them as an album” (NRR) “in conjunction with the 1932 revival of the show” (wikipedia). It was “re-released by Columbia Records on 78rpm, 33 1/3rpm and briefly on CD” (wikipedia).
“The most notable performances on the set are those of Helen Morgan, the original ‘Julie’ in the musical, and Paul Robeson, who played ‘Joe’ in the London cast” (NRR). This “was not strictly an ‘original cast’ album of that revival” (wikipedia) as Morgan and Robeson “joined other singers from the early casts” (Eder c).
“The set also includes…the musical’s overture and finale, making it as close to an original cast album as one may encounter from this period” (NRR). “The orchestra was conducted by Victor Young” (wikipedia). “The historical importance of these performances shouldn’t diminish the pleasure to be derived from them, including an Old Man River and a Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man that are truly authoritative. The 65-year-old sound is astonishingly good” (Eder c).
Other cast albums included those made in 1946, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1971, 1988, and 1994.
“The 1951 version of Show Boat wasn’t treated too seriously by most purists until the 1990s, when it emerged as a minor classic in its own right. In contrast to the 1936 film, which was produced in the composer’s lifetime and done with members of the original cast from the Broadway and London productions, this one 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” (Eder s).
“The orchestrations may not be authentic either, but they do have a certain radiance and richness. Interestingly, although the original Overture is missing, much of it turns up in a musical interlude covering the montage depicting Gaylord’s and Magnolia’s respective fates after splitting up, where it works almost as well as it did on the front end of the score. The 1990 Sony/Columbia version of this soundtrack was the first attempt to expand the release from the 1951 LP, adding songs such as Ava Gardner’s version of ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man’” (Eder s).
“This edition has been supplanted by a version from Rhino Records released in 1995, which has somewhat better sound and more tracks, but is otherwise similar in content. The original recordings were done in surprisingly good fidelity for the era, and are reproduced with great vividness on both” (Eder s).