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Discuss why you think Showboat was so successful. Refer to music examples in your answer.

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Discuss why you think ?Showboat? was so successful. Refer to music examples in your answer. ?Showboat? was initially a novel written by Edna Ferber in 1926. She took inspiration for it during the several weeks she spent on the ?James Adams Floating Palace Theatre? in Bath. The novel was then brought to the stage by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein ll, who together, wrote both the libretto and music for the show which opened on 27th December 1927 in the Ziegfield Theatre. That night after the show, the audience filed out in silence, leading the producer, Florenze Ziegfield to believe he?d gone too far by putting such a show on the stage. However, to his relief, he was met the following morning with ecstatic reviews about the play. ?Showboat? then went on to be performed on Broadway and the West end, being filmed and produced twice, firstly being released in black and white and later in Technicolor. ...read more.


The juxtaposition of the two movements in the piece represents the completely separate social standings of the two races. ?Ol? Man River? is an extremely poignant piece in ?Showboat?. The leitmotif used by Kern throughout the piece accurately represents the protagonist of the play; the Mississippi River, in the form of a perfect fourth. The song is in ?AABA? form with section A being the main melody of the piece. The slow, smooth, legato quality reflects that of the river. In addition to this, the shape of the melody represents the roll or gentle lilt of the Mississippi River. This is known as ?word painting?. Section A is repeated for emphasis but with some contrast to keep it interesting. Section B is the completely juxtaposed with detached notes and a different melody. This section also features aspects of music found in Spirituals, such as the lyrics, ?Gettin? no rest til de judgement day?. ...read more.


It is the only piece in ?Showboat? that Kern didn?t write on, rather he ?borrowed? it from Charles K Harris. This piece is known as a ?Prop Song?, meaning that it is sung when a character finds themslef in a situation that demands or facilitates singing. In this instance, it is sung by Magnolia as she performing on the boat. The lyrics however reflect the hopelessness she feels in her current situation, ?Many a heart is aching after the ball?. Despite of it its many relevant and appealing music features, I believe ?Showboat? became such a success as it addressed real, pressing issues of the time. Unlike the shows that had come before, ?Showboat? didn?t have the happy, comedic fairy tale ending audiences of the time had become accustom to. The music wasn?t solely for entertainment purposes, but for the first time integrated into the storyline, progressing the plot and revealing characters. It was because of this, ?Showboat? continued to influence many other playwrights and paved the way for a new era of entertainment; the Broadway Musical. ...read more.

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