Programme for the musical Show Boat

Programme for the musical Show Boat

In 1928 Show Boat, a new musical adapted from a novel by Edna Ferber with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and music by Jerome Kern, opened at the Drury Lane theatre. It had been produced in New York the previous Christmas. The play takes place on the show boat, 'Cotton-Blossom', a floating theatre that travels up and down the Mississippi, stopping to put on performances along the way. The great American actor and singer Paul Robeson played a minor role, but stole the show with the song 'Ol Man River'. All the reviews singled out Robeson, one claiming that he and the other black member of the cast Marie Burke, ‘towered above everybody else on the stage in their suggestions of character and atmosphere’. His position at fourth in the cast list shows that the producers didn't underestimate his worth either. Robeson was a major pioneer among black performers. He visited Britain several times in the 1920s and 30s, starring in a number of films here and appearing on stage in London and with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon.