October 3, 2014
Fundamentals of Musical Theatre
Show Boat Response Paper
The timeless Kern and Hammerstein classic Show Boat is a musical far beyond its time. Rich with beautiful music and characters but also a plot that surpassed anything of the time period. This show was a preface for Hammerstein’s intricate styling of compiling a show’s plot and lyric. His trend, portrayed in Show Boat and many of his other productions, pairs a lighthearted sound and classic love stories with powerful social, specifically racial, issues of that time period. Show Boat is an early masterpiece that provided a springboard for Hammerstein’s illustrious career.
The symbolism within Show Boat was carefully placed, while at the same time, not taking away from the story and music. The use of the boat on water is a clear representation of life and its correlation with fate; the song “Ol’ Man River” sums up this idea. The river is personified as a man, who although sees trouble and heartache, must keep “rollin’ on” because those are just the rules of fate. The river, like fate, does not halt for anyone no matter the circumstance. The characters are tested by fate throughout the production, for example Julia, who although being kindhearted and innocent is a victim to fate due to circumstances out of her control. Show Boat spans over many years, which is also a light commentary on the tests of time and how people can change with age and fate throughout the years.
Hammerstein created very interesting love stories in order to keep up with the classic Cinderella story, but also creating more dimensional and dramatic relationships. The relationship between Gaylord and Magnolia is a classic love-at-first-sight story that carries with it some of the most beautiful duets including: “Make Believe” and “You Are Love”. At the same time the classic love story of Magnolia and Ravenal is also used as buffer to better contrast the more difficult love story of Julia and...
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