Great Performances: Season 18, Episode 4

Show Boat (27 Oct. 1989)

TV Episode  -   -  Biography | Drama | Music
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A stage production of the classic musical, videotaped in front of a live audience at the Paper Mill Playhouse, New Jersey.



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Episode credited cast:
Richard White ...
Shelly Burch ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Marsha Bagwell ...
P.L. Brown ...
Lauren Gaffney ...
Larry Grey ...
Robert Jensen ...
Michael McCarty ...
Lenora Nemetz ...
Monte Ralstin ...
Lee Roy Reams ...
Lawrence Vincent ...


A stage production of the classic musical, videotaped in front of a live audience at the Paper Mill Playhouse, New Jersey.

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Release Date:

27 October 1989 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Although this production still does not include the complete "Mis'ry's Comin' Round", which was cut at Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.'s orders from the original stage production, it does reinstate the always cut "Let's Start the New Year", and also includes "I Still Suits Me", from the 1936 film version of "Show Boat". See more »


Gaylord Ravenal: [referring to Parthy] Every time she calls, you jump. Why?
Cap'n Andy Hawks: Why?
Cap'n Andy Hawks: That woman's got a mean disposition!
See more »


Version of Show Boat (1929) See more »


Mis'ry's Comin' Round
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Sung by levee workers
See more »

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User Reviews

A PBS Broadcast of a revival of the 1927 Musical Comedy Play
16 April 2003 | by (Carson Valley Nevada) – See all my reviews

Taped during a repeat broadcast of the Paper Mill Playhouse, New Jersey production of "ShowBoat" based upon Edna Ferber's 1926 Novel.

Before obtaining this copy, we had never seen the film versions from 1929, 1936 and 1951 (In 1940, my parents took me to see the 1936 version on the big screen but I spent most of the time hiding under my seat - some scenes, especially those showing cotton bales being loaded, frightened me. I did, however retain some of the songs.) So, we had nothing with which to compare the Paper Mill stage production. Our fortuitous VHS copy inspired us to try to find a CD to help us remember the music. We wound up with a copy of the Angel/EMI CD; which is a symphonic version of this popular score. Only recently have we been able to see the 1936 Film Version; again, we caught a showing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

IMPRESSIONS - Paper Mill Playhouse

We had a great time staying up late to monitor the production; it provided us with some laughs and brought us to tears, the ending was a happy one as required by Theatrical Comedy. The Paper Mill Playhouse did not have the budget nor the space on the stage for a huge cast. We have viewed this tape several times and we have noticed the same actress working different parts in several scenes. Well, she was from a small troupe in a small town.

COMPARISONS - to 1926 Book and 1936 Movie and 1988 CD Recording

The adaptation compresses the adventures of many of Edna Ferber's characters between 1888 to 1927. Some roles from the book are changed in time and place, even switched from one of Ferber's to another person. All to suit the occasion and the size of the theatre.

The 1936 film deleted a favorite song: "Life on the Wicked Stage" but added another couple we had never heard. Also, to reduce the running time, some song repeats were deleted.

The 1988 CD is a reconstruction of the December 1927 Opening Night score.


Having lived with the Paper Mill Playhouse production, having read the Book, listened to the CD and seen the 1936 Film; I think that any one of them is still a lot of fun. Regardless of the exact selections of songs, the score is fun to hear, the songs set the toes to tapping and are easy to remember. I think the varied casting does nothing to change what is an excellent story. The same goes for the variations in staging. To me it doesn't matter what I am hearing or seeing, the story of "ShowBoat" transcends all and I like them all.

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