Music sheet cover for Ol' Man River

Music sheet cover for Ol' Man River

Show Boat combined the talents of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, both of whom had felt for some time that Broadway musical theatre was suffering from a surfeit of fluffy musical comedies and needed some depth. Based on Edna Ferber's sprawling novel of life on the Mississippi, Show Boat opened in New York in 1927 and set out to deal with issues such as unhappy marriages and racial prejudice. It opened in New York in 1927 and ran for 572 performances. Magnolia Hawks, whose father owns the show boat 'Cotton Blossom', falls in love with a gambler named Gaylord Ravenal. They marry, but he gambles away all their money and they separate. The subplot involves Magnolia's mulatto (a person having one white and one black parent) friend, Julie La Verne, who is forbidden to perform when her parentage is revealed. The show mixed white and black performers, and 'Ol' Man River', sung by Paul Robeson, became an anthem for black Americans. He repeated his role in the 1936 film, starring Irene Dunne and Alan Jones as Magnolia and Ravenal, who appear on this sheet music, rather than Robeson, who actually performed the song.