Cher Public

Levee duty

If you are of the belief that Show Boat can stand on its own as a classic score and thus doesn’t need the trappings of musical production, you’ll love the New York Philharmonic’s “semi-staged” production. Conductor/director Ted Sperling presents the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein classic as almost entirely a concert opera. Only a thin backdrop of an old-fashioned river-boat set the scene. The singers and dancers were dressed in modern evening wear, and the action is limited to the thin apron of the Avery Fisher Hall stage. Sperling uses the entire Philharmonic, instead of the usual pared-down orchestra that’s typical for these musical presentations.  

The musical choices Sperling made were almost entirely sound. He’s reinstated many of the often-cut songs, including songs that didn’t even make it to the 1927 premiere (“Mis’ry’s Comin’ Around” and “It’s Getting Hotter in the North”). He’s pared the dialogue down considerably, but thankfully hasn’t scrubbed the libretto of its “period” dialect, that, yes, includes that racial slur.

And he’s even kept one of the most cringeworthy scenes from the musical, the second act World’s Fair scene, where a gaggle of white folks are having fun staring at “exotic African warriors.” Show Boat includes such beautiful scenes of racial harmony (including the always heart-warming scene of Julie and Queenie teaching Magnolia how to sing) that it’s good to also keep the less feel-good stuff.

His use of the full Philharmonic and chorus gave Kern’s score a richness of sound that’s often absent in Broadway musicals. Miking was less obtrusive than it usually is—the voices and orchestra balanced together to create a musical fabric that would be missing if Sterling had pared down the orchestra.

Sperling’s casting choices were mostly sound as well. He’s made the decision NOT to double the Kim/Magnolia role, so a more modern, flapper Kim (Erika Henningsen) can sing a rather brassy production number (“It’s Getting Hotter in the North”) while Magnolia can keep her romantic, sweet style of singing that Kern took so much effort to convey.

Vanessa Williams (Julie) was almost perfect—she has the smoky voice, the glamor, and the physique du jour—you can totally believe that Julie is mixed race and that she’s mixed enough to “pass.” Williams didn’t overdo the melodramatic torch song mannerisms that have crept into many a rendition of “Bill.” It was a great performance from a woman who so many years later still looks like a beauty queen. I don’t need to tell you that she was magnificent in “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”

Lauren Worsham (Magnolia) and Julian Ovenden (Gaylord) sounded enchanting. Both have soaring voices and did “Make Believe” and “You are Love” justice. Ovendon in particular has a handsome tenor voice and really nails the part of Gaylord down pat—he’s of course one of those useless charmers, but with Ovendon singing, you believed more in the charm than the uselessness. NaTasha Yvette Williams (Queenie) had a deep, rich, soulful voice that lent gravitas to this rather thinly written role, and Alli Mauzey (Ellie) and Christopher Fitzgerald (Frank) were very charming as the comic duo. “I Might Fall Back On You” was a highlight.

It’s depressing then that with so many fine attributes, the parts of this production that fell flat really fell so flat. For one, Norm Lewis (Joe) doesn’t have the richness and power to do justice to the show’s anthem “Ol’ Man River.” And if you’re cast as Joe, pretty much your entire job is to sing “Ol’ Man River.” He sounded like a salon baritone filling in for Paul Robeson. I really hate this sort of casting—just because an artist is African-American and labels himself a “bass” doesn’t mean he should be cast for the part. It’s puzzling that Sperling’s careful musical choices would result in such a misfire.

Cap’n Andy and Parthy Ann Hawks are mostly just acting roles with minimal required singing, and so it was dismaying that Fred Willard didn’t really act much and Jane Alexander wasn’t very funny as the shrewish Parthy.

Other choices were simply wrong-headed. Lauren Worsham is definitely a young, ingenue-type Magnolia, and barely makes an effort to act/look/sound more mature in the second act when Magnolia’s supposed to be middle-aged. That’s really okay—of the Magnolia’s I’ve seen, only Irene Dunne in the 1936 movie was believable as both young and mature Magnolia. With that being said, there’s no excuse dressing Magnolia for most of the evening in a short, juvenile dress one might find on the Forever21 sales rack. Worsham’s voice is beautiful but her portrayal had an immaturity and archness at times, and the tween presentation didn’t help.

The other major misfire was the half-hearted dancing. The choreography by Randy Skinner didn’t look well-rehearsed, and to be fair, the players were confined to such a tiny portion of the stage that I’m not sure Fred Astaire could have danced well under the circumstances. But so many of Show Boat’s numbers practically dance off the page that to see it accompanied by “dancing” that belongs in a basement church social took the steam off those production numbers.

But you can’t kill this musical. It’s considered the first great American musical, but as the years pass, I’m of the opinion that it’s the greatest American musical, period. No American musical matches Show Boat in richness, beauty, and depth. You can’t kill the score, and despite some very dated dialogue and plot points, you can’t kill the story either. There are so many moments that register so powerfully, all these years later, that one wonders why no one writes music like this anymore.

It would get very boring if I were to list all the moments of Show Boat that brought a tear to my eye, so I’ll just list one. In the second act Magnolia has been abandoned by her husband and is in dire straits. She makes a desperate audition at a seedy club and sings “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine.” The club owner is unimpressed, but Magnolia is defiant. “That’s the most beautiful song in the world,” she says. Magnolia is of course paying  homage to Julie, who was cast off the ship with her husband Steve when it was revealed that Julie and Steve were an interracial couple. It was Julie who taught Magnolia how to sing.

The idea that in the segregated, Jim Crow South, music became the universal language that bonded people of all races together is the real theme of Show Boat, and that’s why in 2014, the musical just keeps rolling along, enchanting audiences every time it plays.

Photo: Chris Lee

  • pasavant

    The English Concert’s Alcina reminded me of how well Opera can do with no sets or costumes at all. Better no sets or costumes than some of the recent gay madness passing as high art. How long must we wait before some German theater director stages Show Boat as taking place in the steersman’s dream?

    • Just a guess: 40 years? Because that’s how long it’s been since the “Steersman’s Dream” production of Fliegende Hollander opened in San Francisco.

      In the meantime, let’s settle down to some discussion of some of those hot new film releases such as Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Barry Lyndon and Dog Day Afternoon.

  • operaassport

    Wonderfully comprehensive review. I mostly agree. Julian Ovenden was the star of the evening, I thought. Also, he considers himself a baritone with some high notes, not a tenor. The yummy singer and actor is also known as one of Lady Mary’s suitors on Downton Abbey.

    Show really has the richest score of any Broadway show. Irene Dunne is astonishing in the original film especially considering she was over 35 at the time. The MGM remake — which makes a mess of the original show — is mostly awful. Only Howard Keel and William Warfield shine.

    The original has Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan, the originals. And Irene Dunne, who didnt create the role, but played it in the original tour.

    • Krunoslav

      operaass avers:

      “The original has Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan, the originals. ”

      Actually, Paul Robeson did NOT originate Joe, though most people assume he did and he was meant to. Robeson originated it in London. The first Joe was Jules Bledsoe, who also had an operatic career, taking in Chicago ( where he sang Amonasro decades before Todd Duncan’s NYCO bow or Marian Anderson’s Met bow) and the Hippodrome company on NYC. In Europe Bledsoe also sang Gruenberg’s EMPEROR JONES and Boris Godunov.

      • The 1951 movie is IMO ruined by the MGM movie musical aesthetic. That bright, sunny, colorful aesthetic is just wonderful for things like Easter Parade or Singin’ in the Rain but Show Boat demands a grittier look. Every time I see Ava Gardner singing “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine” in her emerald green frock with the plaid trimmings and Kathryn Grayson with her hair tied in that huge pink bow I’m like no, just no.

        I do like how the MGM musical tried to trim the unbelievable timeline of the second act into a more comprehensive timespan.

        Also I think Irene Dunne’s performance in the 1936 is so great that Kathryn Grayson is vanilla by comparison. Grayson is prim, sweet, and dull. Dunne has that sweetness, but also is way more believable as a girl who grew up around show business.

      • Donna Anna

        My dad never forgot hearing Julius Bledsoe. Dad was a kid, sitting in the nosebleed and he said Bledsoe’s voice started in the depths and rose to a crescendo that made the walls shake. Even Robeson couldn’t equal Bledsoe for dad.

        • SF Guy

    • armerjacquino

      There’s an operatic link with Ovenden, too- he’s married to Kate Royal.

  • Krunoslav

    Thanks for the review! Did NaTasha Yvette Williams get to sing Queenie’s Ballyhoo?

    Who is in the Star minor role, The Old Lady On The Levee?

    SHOW BOAT- the American PELLEAS…

    • Hippolyte

      NY Williams did do the Ballyhoo and was great all evening.

      I was less taken with V Williams who sounded anachronistic (and superficial) amid a cast which otherwise seemed very attuned to the period style.

      I do agree about Magnolia’s short dresses which helped to infantilize the character particularly in the first half when she seemed about 13.

  • Nero Wolfe

    I thought Norm Lewis was seriously miscast in Porgy. Nice actor but not a Porgy voice. Never understood how he received all those good reviews. Casting him as Joe seems even worse. Didn’t Sperling have him sing ‘Ol Man River once before hiring him?

    I hope PBS recorded this for future broadcast. I love the music.

  • Just as a PSA: the incandescent 1936 version is now available on DVD. For years you could only catch it on TCM.

    Only the divine Irene Dunne could get away with this dance:

    • lorenzo.venezia

      @Poison Ivy-- Oh for god’s sake, this is too fabulous for me to have never seen at my age! Thank you for posting. Sensational!

  • aulus agerius

    I enjoyed the Caramoor Borgia today on WQXR. Very good performance. Meade got better and better as did Mumford. The gents were excellent throughout. I love the sound of Angelini’s voice and he showed none of the minor faults I’ve heard before.

    • Bill

      On the contrary, I thought Angela Meade sounded for the
      most part rather wretched in the part (as heard on the radio) with off pitch singing, difficulty in some of the florid passages, and a less than beautiful voice -- there were some good notes but I would never rush to any
      opera house to hear her in this role. My feeling (having seen her Norma at the Met which I thought only adequate) is that Meade is overrated on these parterre pages.

      • armerjacquino

        Meade is overrated on these parterre pages.

        That suggests consensus. I’d say Meade is one of the singers about whom opinions here are most divided.

        • littoraldrift

          Indeed, has been really interesting for me to see the huge diversity of opinion here about Meade — first time I’ve really loved a singer so many other ppl just cannot abide… I find her exciting if rough, + there’s this plangent quality in the voice that I find very moving in certain music. There’s a brief snippet floating on YT of her “Dio ti giocondi, o sposo” in concert which turned me on to that. (That she does not have an innately gorgeous instrument and that there is an unpolished quality to some of the singing, I readily concede!)

          I wonder what the best analogy, from earlier generations of singers, would be. (For her mixed reception.)

          • littoraldrift

            The fragment of Meade’s Desdemona:

  • La Valkyrietta

    I always think of Show Boat as a Ziegfeld show :). Thanks for the review.

    Totally off topic, I wonder if a small change in Klinghoffer would have pleased everyone, composer, librettist, patrons and protesters, and allowed the HD. I’m thinking of a change in the title of the opera, from ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ to ‘The Murder of Klinghoffer’.

  • rapt

    The vocabulary of the Israeli-Palestinian debate is clashing with the vocabulary of opera and drama. Some opponents ask why it is called “The Death of Klinghoffer,” and not “The Murder of Klinghoffer,” which would stress the brutality of the crime at its center.
    Here’s what Sellars said about that (from the NYTimes, 10-14-14):

    The director Peter Sellars, who came up with the idea of the opera, said the title was meant to place it within the long tradition of dramas named for the deaths of their protagonists.

    “There are a series of really powerful dramatic works with that title,” Mr. Sellars said in an interview, noting that he had been thinking of plays like Georg Büchner’s “Dantons Tod” (“Danton’s Death”) and others. “It’s part of dramatic history.”

    • rapt

      Oops! Here’s what that was supposed to look like:

      Here’s what Sellars said about that (from the NYTimes, 10-14-14):

      Some opponents ask why it is called “The Death of Klinghoffer,” and not “The Murder of Klinghoffer,” which would stress the brutality of the crime at its center.

      The director Peter Sellars, who came up with the idea of the opera, said the title was meant to place it within the long tradition of dramas named for the deaths of their protagonists.

      “There are a series of really powerful dramatic works with that title,” Mr. Sellars said in an interview, noting that he had been thinking of plays like Georg Büchner’s “Dantons Tod” (“Danton’s Death”) and others. “It’s part of dramatic history.”

      • Here’s a theory: “The Murder of Klinghoffer” would reduce Leon Klinghoffer to a victim. There’s a murderer, and there’s the murderer’s victim. “Death of Klinghoffer” gives the character more agency — as depicted in the opera, Leon Klinghoffer is a man who refuses to be bullied despite his physical disabilities. Whereas everyone else lowered their heads, kept quiet, Leon Klinghoffer was outspoken and defiant. His death is a result of this defiance.

        • La Valkyrietta

          There are also works with murder in their titles, for example, “Murder in the Cathedral”, so another title could be “Murder on Board” or “Murder in the Mediterranean”. The authors probably thought all out. Forget about my suggestions. Life upon the wicked stage ain’t ever what a girl supposes, and I must say neither ain’t death. Thanks for clarifying the point and for the NYT reference.

      • Ethan

        Really? A lot of powerful dramatic works with that title? I don’t know of many operas with The Death Of in the title. Danton’s Death, as play or opera, is not famous in any real sense.

        It’s a lie. The opera uses “Death” instead of “Murder” in order to delight in that murder.

        Leon Klinghoffer did not “die.” He was murdered. By Islamic terrorists. You may think that taking their side protects you, but the first of the recent beheading victims, James Foley, thought that, too. That’s why he went to that part of the world: to join up with them. They simply saw him as a meal ticket, to hold for ransom. No payment forthcoming, they decided to make a video of him instead.

        And they are coming for you, too, whether you like The “Death” of Klinghoffer or not.

        • Obviously someone who never bothered to either read the libretto or see the opera. What a narrow-minded ignorant response.

          • armerjacquino

            Bizarre description of James Foley, too, who was a journalist.

            • Ouf

              But the point about getting close has some resonance: never cozy up to tyrants!

        • CwbyLA

          Are you anti-Muslim Ethan?

        • amg

        • la vociaccia

          You can’t be serious. Really, you are? Okay:

          The opera paints the murder and the murderers as vile, unconscionable, and utterly without moral explanation. Whatever five minutes ONE terrorist gets to reminisce about his mommy is completely drowned in the utterly horrific acts he and his accomplices commit. I did not for a second find any characters sympathetic. Not to mention the entire scene with the Palestinian mother wailing (horribly- terrible singing but that is another matter)about how she wants her son to be a terrorist. It was so blatantly NOT pro-terrorism that I felt cheated- I was hoping for SOMETHING controversial, but there was NOTHING. The libretto could have been written by one of the idiot protesters -- that is how thickly the anti-terrorism is spread in the opera. I left disappointed over a frankly above-average opera about an uncomfortable subject with some beautiful choral writing and mostly appalling vocal writing.

          The outrage over the use of ‘death’ over ‘murder’ in the title has been enough to turn me against my own religion. To have to argue with a straight face (invariably arguing with people who haven’t seen the opera) about whether using “death” in the title was tantamount to justifying or minimizing the murder of Klinghoffer -when the Whole. Actual. Opera. is about how the murder is unjustifiable-- is frankly too much to ask of someone who actually lives in reality.

          And that is the last time I will put energy into writing about an opera I truly found to be unworthy of the media circus that surrounded it. It was a decent opera about a relevant subject. It was less controversial than that opera they did last week featuring white woman performing in blackface as an ethiopian princess, not mention that opera they did last year with the white woman in yellowface playing a 15 year old married off to an American soldier.

  • nounsmeanthings

    I thought Lauren Worsham was the dramatic center that held the production together. In a weakly directed (and sometimes conducted) performance, she made her character a three-dimensional force that transcended the limits of a semi-staged production. Show Boat is a seminal work in American lyric theatre, and she was one of the select performers who undertook the project with both the necessary skills and homework.

  • parpignol

    very nice performance of Janacek’s Vixen in Vienna this evening with Tomas Netopil replacing Welser-Moest; orchestra sounded great for Netopil; and Gerald Finley was wonderful as the forester. . .

  • SilvestriWoman

    Ivy, yet another brilliant review. Many moons ago, as a senior in high school, I was a singer/dancer chorus member in a community theater production. Though I’d know the show for years, doing 22 productions only deepened my love of the show. It not only has an incredible score, but the book holds up.

    Though I agree that the 1936 is the definitive production of the show -- who can top Robeson? -- my favorite Magnolia/Gaylord remain Flicka and Jerry Hadley. The recording is fantastic -- Stratas, heartbreaking as ever as Julie -- but the romantic pair give a master class in musical theater. I still can’t watch these clips without weeping.

    • SilvestriWoman

      Here’s a great clip of Willard White, singing the original lyrics to Ol’ Man River.

    • Wow those Jerry Hadley/von Stade clips are beautiful. Jerry Hadley :(

    • Jerry Hadley -- sigh* such a loss way too early.

  • SilvestriWoman

    One last clip, I promise! Ava Gardner singing the finest Bill I’ve ever heard, yet -- criminally -- was dubbed over in the final edit.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      No suffering, no connection, no feeling in that one! Wish I could find a recording of the cabaret singer Carolyn Gains performing it.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          Much better! Thanks.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

    • mjmacmtenor

      The one that got away (but Ava Gardner used her makeup)

  • According to The Internet Broadway Database, Mis’ry’s Comin’Round was in the original 1927 production.

    • SF Guy

      According to Miles Kreuger’s exhaustively detailed and very reliable “Show Boat: The Story of a Classic American Musical,” Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’ was dropped after the first week of the pre-Broadway tryout tour. The show initially ran over four hours, and drastic pruning began immediately after opening night.

  • SF Guy

    Great review, Ivy--thanks! I’ve been a Show Boat junkie since hearing the just-released 1961 studio recording of highlights with Barbara Cook and John Raitt as an impressionable 14-year-old, and it hooked me for life. It remains a favorite recording, second only to the complete-and-then-some von Stade/Hadley/Stratas version. Two excerpts:

    The recent Zambello version at SFO was a mixed bag (the Hal Prince version had a much more consistent vision), but the score was generally well-served:

    (Unfortunately, there’s nothing here of Harriet Harris’s terrific Parthy, but Magnolia and Kim can be seen (in matching blue and green dresses) swaying charmingly in the background diromg “Hey, Feller!”

    • mjmacmtenor

      Can’t tell about the dramatic direction from these short clips, but it looks and SOUNDS terrific! Saw the SFO Porgy & Bess on PBS recently, From the quality of these video highlights, it looks like they may have recorded Showboat for a future DVD and/or PBS broadcast. Sure hope so.

      • A lot of SFO productions are making their way to DVD, thank god. I can’t wait for this one if it ever gets televised. It will definitely be on my bucket list.

      • SF Guy

        All SFO productions are recorded now, ever since Gockley found the money to install built-in cameras throughout the house. If a performance is listed for “Operavision” screen projection in the balcony, it’s one of those being recorded. Since there would seem to be a market for a new HD Show Boat, I think there’s a good chance this one will eventually surface. Personally, I’d rather have the Hal Prince version, which does a much better job getting the period details right for each era (I saw little change in costuming between Act 1 and the Chicago scenes in SF), and making the chorus a dramatic presence rather than a group of singers lurking in the background, ready to burst into song and/or dance at a moment’s notice. (Ellie seems to have her own personal, well-rehearsed backup trio for “Life Upon the Wicked Stage.”) The see-through design of the Show Boat wasn’t to my liking, and Racette’s Julie was tasteful, without ever making me forget I was seeing a diva star turn. But as I said before, it generally sounded great, and if it’s released, I’ll probably get it. Thank God they’ve FINALLY released the great 1936 film, though shamefully without any of the extra features on the laserdisc versions.

        Here’s a taste of the Hal Prince version:

        In the SF production, we meet the teenage Kim, but she hasn’t progressed to stardom and it’s a non-singing role. I much prefer the Prince version of the finale, seen here on the Tony Awards:

        • SF Guy, you mention something about Show Boat productions that I think is very important. The wonderful 1936 film took some care in designing the costumes and sets to have a slightly cheap, gritty look. These are clothes you can imagine people living on a riverboat might wear — nothing too fancy. They aren’t rich, after all. The interior of the Show Boat looks cheap too — think of a somewhat run down casino decor. I love it. The film doesn’t have the feel of a Hollywood version of the past.

          The Zambello production looks visually sumptuous — which is the problem. Beautiful sets and costumes, but … too fancy, too pretty. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want the DVD. Hell, I even have the 1951 MGM movie, and I generally hate it.

          • mjmacmtenor

            I saw the Prince production on tour. I was very impressed with many things -- the use of the black chorus, the entire miscegenation scene, including Misery’s Comin’ Round (the best I have ever seen this scene), the addition of I Have the Room Above Her, and the use of dance to show the progress of time in Act II. On the other hand, much of the Chicago section did not work for me (before Ravenal leaves) and giving Why Do I Love You to Parthy was not for me. Sorry to hear that SFO does not include the adult Kim (important to the plot) but from what I have read, the do include Magnolia’s success as a Broadway start (nice touch). PBS had a good production from Papermill Playhouse that was on Great Performances in the 90s. Richard White (voice of Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) was a great Ravenal.

            • SF Guy

              I saw the Prince version three times, on Broadway and two different touring editions. My favorite was the Los Angeles version, with Ned Beatty, Cloris Leachman, Teri Hansen, Kevin Gray and Valerie Pettiford. Leachman and Hansen made a much more plausible mother-daughter pairing than Elaine Stritch and Rebecca Luker, and the antagonism between Leachman and Gray’s boyish but faintly slimy Ravenal was almost as strong as Allan Jones and Helen Westley in 1936. I agree that for vocal reasons, giving Parthy “Why Do I Love You?” works better in theory than practice, but with the World’s Fair scene gone, there wasn’t any good place to put it.

              In the SF version, we see Magnolia singing “Dance Away the Night” as an established Broadway star, then cut to the scene on the levee in 1927. Ravenal drops by the Cotton Blossom, where Andy tells him of Magnolia’s recent success in Europe, and that she’s currently visiting. Later, after the show, Queenie regales the crowd with a song from Magnolia’s latest hit, “Hey, Feller!” Magnolia spots Ravenal and approaches him, but before he can ask for forgiveness, the Old Lady on the Levee gives her unintentionally ironic speech about having been there for their long-ago wedding, and her pleasure in seeing that it all turned out so well. The teenage Kim then recognizes her father and embraces him while Magnolia looks on, as the chorus sings “Ol’ Man River” for the last time. It was left deliberately unclear what might follow; Heidi Stober gave no indication that Magnolia was ready to have Ravenal back in her life full-time. Although it played well enough, this ending lacked the sense of showbiz traditions being passed down and evolving through the generations that you get in the original novel, original show, 1936 film, Papermill Playhouse and Prince versions, etc.

              BTW, for an even more realistic depiction of actual show boat life, the 1929 silent/sound version (based primarily on the novel, with the miscegenation part deleted) can’t be bettered, though it’s hard to find (it turns up occasionally on TCM), and about 1/3 of the soundtrack has been lost.

        • Krunoslav

          ” Ellie seems to have her own personal, well-rehearsed backup trio for “Life Upon the Wicked Stage.””

          Yes, indeed she did. I was mocked for making similar objections to the staging of “Mein Herr Marquis” in the ghastly Sams FLEDERMAUS, but there is a way to provide back-up dancing in these ‘improv” numbers without it seeming like they’ve been rehearsing them for 6 months on the road.

  • Talk of the Town

    Speaking of bad versions of Ol’ Man River: No. Just no.

    • Here’s another “No, just no” rendition. I love Sam Cooke’s voice but he makes this song sound like a Christmas carol:

      • mjmacmtenor

        The full MGM treatment!

        • Omg that’s amazing. Thank you for that. I love the white suit.

          A palate cleanser:

        • DeepSouthSenior

          Sinatra’s album from 1963, “The Concert Sinatra,” is an all-time “desert island” disc. It proves beyond dispute that Sinatra could be a great artist when he wanted to. His voice is at its peak (age 47), free from the sad vocal deterioration and annoying mannerisms of later years. The selections are superb -- real “classics” -- and the arrangements by Nelson Riddle are as tasteful and appropriate as they come.

          Here’s the track listing, courtesy of Wikipedia:

          1.”I Have Dreamed” (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II) – 3:01
          2.”My Heart Stood Still” (Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) – 3:06
          3.”Lost in the Stars” (Maxwell Anderson, Kurt Weill) – 4:11
          4.”Ol’ Man River” (Hammerstein, Jerome Kern) – 4:29
          5.”You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Rodgers, Hammerstein) – 3:11
          6.”Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (Rodgers, Hart) – 3:02
          7.”This Nearly Was Mine” (Rodgers, Hammerstein) – 2:49
          8.”Soliloquy” (Rodgers, Hammerstein) – 8:05 Bonus tracks included on the 2012 reissue:
          9.”California” (Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen) -- 3:36
          10.”America the Beautiful” (Katharine Lee Bates, Samuel A. Ward) -- 2:21

          My favorite track on the album is “I Have Dreamed.” Although sung as a big number in the grand style, it remains an amazing display of gentleness, subtlety, and restraint. These qualities, which run counter to Sinatra’s image, make the performance even more effective.

          Here’s “Ol’ Man River” from The Concert Sinatra. I’ll put this 1963 recording up against anyone’s, at any time:

          • DeepSouthSenior

            Just one more word on “The Concert Sinatra.” Sinatra’s phrasing on “This Nearly Was Mine” is one of the modern wonders of the world. Every singer, even opera singers -- no, especially opera singers -- could learn a thing or two from this performance. At his best, Sinatra was without equal in bringing a lyric to life. In this song, he breaks your heart and dazzles you with his technique at the same time, which is no mean feat.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              Here it is. Oh, my:

            • SilvestriWoman

              Gawd, I love that song!!! My personal favorite rendition is Barbara Cook’s. Can’t find a YouTube clip, but it’s worth downloading… A testament to her impeccable simplicity married to total dedication to the lyric.

    • This shouldn’t work, but it does, despite the diamond earrings.

      • SF Guy

        It’s a pity that Judy was on the outs with MGM by time the 1951 version was made; she’d have been a fabulous Julie (this very early attempt at “Bill” notwithstanding):

  • DeepSouthSenior

    Thanks, Ivy and everyone else, for the review, comments, links and clips re Show Boat. I have ordered the DVD of the 1936 film, and the 3-CD audio recording of the complete score with Hadley and von Stage (1987, I think). That’s another hit on the budget early in the month, but what the heck, it’s from Santa for under the tree, so it doesn’t count as a real purchase.

    I agree that Show Boat is The Great American Musical. I love the book, the lyrics, and the score, especially the juxtaposition of musical styles. To me, it’s not a pastiche, but a bold synthesis. I just can’t get enough of it. Oddly, though, I’m the only one in my family who feels this way. “Masterful musical theater with a message” is too bland a description for the wonder of this work.

    I wish I had thought of Show Boat when I was in South Carolina last Thursday for a Board meeting. A number of my South Carolina friends, who are as conservative as I am (or more so), were thrilled at their state’s re-election of Indian-American Governor Nikki Haley, and the victory of Tim Scott as the first elected African-American Senator from the Deep South since Reconstruction (with over 60% of the vote!). I find this quite wonderful, a milestone to be celebrated. I see only good in this, and no downside. Regardless of your political views, surely it’s a cause for great rejoicing. And in South Carolina, no less! As I heard more than once last week, “Who could have imagined this fifty years ago?”