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Show Boat revival? - Page 4

VintageSnarker
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Show Boat revival? #76
Posted: 5/30/20 at 10:02pm

There was a period around when they did it at Lincoln Center with Vanessa Williams and Julian Ovenden and Lauren Worsham when I was obsessed with Show Boat. I saw that concert. I listened to all the available recordings. I watched the SFO pro-shot. I watched the Irene Dunne movie. It was so much that I haven't really had much desire to see it or listen to it since. 

I do think it needs to be presented exactly as written as a historical piece OR hot take... as one of those dreaded revisals. It won't take to the Oklahoma treatment or even Bartlett Sher's slight twists like with The King and I or My Fair Lady. It needs to be what it is or you need to do some major work on the book. It's not magically going to be woke because of clever direction or performance choices. The issues are baked in. Get a respected playwright, definitely a woman, preferably a woman of color and let her try and find more satisfying resolutions for Julie and Ravenel and Nola. It doesn't have to match what happens in the original book.

Julie cannot just disappear. It would be great if all of the black characters could be more central to the narrative but at the very least Julie cannot just disappear to fix Nola's life. My issue is not that the material needs to be scrubbed to be less problematic but in 2020, it's not saying enough. Even though it touches on difficult issues, it feels sanitized because most of the struggle is offstage. Instead of seeing characters work through things or fail to overcome the challenges they face, everyone just keeps disappearing (Steve, Julie, Ravenel, etc.) 

VintageSnarker
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Show Boat revival? #77
Posted: 5/30/20 at 10:08pm

Sally Durant Plummer said: "The curious paradox concerning opera houses doing musicals is that most of them are still (though teetering in recent years) able to do lavish productions with gorgeous sets and full orchestras, but I often find opera singers unable to do justice to musical theatre songs."

The productions from other states that use musical theater talent are fine. The Met's recent production of Porgy and Bess was dreadful. It had its moments but most opera singers are just not great actors and the direction and staging was leaden (as it usually is). The show felt interminable.

Globefan
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joined:10/31/12
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Show Boat revival? #78
Posted: 5/30/20 at 10:43pm

VintageSnarker said: "There was a period around when they did it at Lincoln Center with Vanessa Williams and Julian Ovenden and Lauren Worsham when I was obsessed with Show Boat. I saw that concert. I listened to all the available recordings. I watched the SFO pro-shot. I watched the Irene Dunne movie.It was so much that I haven't really had much desire to see it or listen to it since.

I do think it needs to be presented exactly as written as a historical piece OR hot take... as one of those dreaded revisals. It won't take to the Oklahoma treatment or even Bartlett Sher's slight twists like with The King and I or My Fair Lady. It needs to be what it is or you need to do some major work on the book. It's not magically going to be woke because of clever direction or performance choices. The issues are baked in. Get a respected playwright, definitely a woman, preferably a woman of color and let her try and findmore satisfying resolutions for Julie and Ravenel and Nola. It doesn't have to match what happens in the original book.

Julie cannot just disappear. It would be great if all of the black characters could be more central to the narrative but at the very least Julie cannot just disappear to fix Nola's life. My issue is not that the material needs to be scrubbed to be less problematic but in 2020, it's not saying enough. Even though it touches on difficult issues, it feels sanitized because most of the struggle is offstage. Instead of seeing characters work through things or fail to overcome the challenges they face, everyone just keeps disappearing (Steve, Julie, Ravenel, etc.)
"

How about an adaptation of the original novel? 

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joevitus
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Show Boat revival? #79
Posted: 5/30/20 at 11:24pm

The tendency to cast an African American woman as Julie is one of the big mistakes productions have been making since the 1970's. If Julie is clearly identifiable as African American, her plot makes no sense: no way she'd be allowed to perform in that troupe to begin with, or marry Steve. It's only possible for her to be in that position if no one would guess by looking at her that she was mixed race. Indeed the whole point of the role is that Julie is in no discernible way the least different than anyone else, but has her career (and life) destroyed because of stupid laws and vengeful bigots.

I love Show Boat dearly, but I think our culture is, ironically, too intolerant for any production of it. The racial realities (and they were the realties of the era in which the show takes place--heck, largely still true when the show was first performed) would look like racist attitudes held by Hammerstein and Kern (and whoever does the revival). To wit: the epitaphs used; miscegenation laws treated by the characters as something people simply have to accept, whatever they think of them; the two main black characters would likely be attacked as minstrel types (Queenie is a mammy figure, Joe perpetually lazy).

As people have pointed out, the racial issues pop up and then are dismissed in a matter of a few scenes. Magnolia banishes all thoughts of Julie and Steve's expulsion from her mind the minute Gay walks in at the end of the climactic scene and she and Gay are put into Julie and Steve's parts--that would be taken as callous and clueless. The complete lack of concern basically everyone but Julie has for them after they depart--and even in Magnolia's case, it's literally one line in one scene referencing Julie--would be untenable to today's audiences. You'd have to start over with a new book from scratch, and then you wouldn't really have Show Boat. At most, you'd have the dreadful MGM movie version.

At no time in our history, I think, has it been less possible to make this show work for a contemporary audience. And that doesn't reflect well on us.

Updated On: 5/30/20 at 11:24 PM
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GavestonPS
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Show Boat revival? #80
Posted: 5/31/20 at 6:59pm

VintageSnarker said: "...I do think it needs to be presented exactly as written as a historical piece...."

Sweet Jesus! You should have stopped there, although there is no one, "exactly as written" version any more.

Julie doesn't disappear to conform to some stereotype of the Noble Negro--I assume that is your objection. She disappears because that is the cost of racism, more than merely losing one job on a show boat. Her appearance in Act II is there precisely to preclude us from assuming she and Frank moved north and lived happily-ever-after.

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GavestonPS
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Show Boat revival? #81
Posted: 5/31/20 at 7:01pm

VintageSnarker said: "Sally Durant Plummer said: "The curious paradox concerning opera houses doing musicals is that most of them are still (though teetering in recent years) able to do lavish productions with gorgeous sets and full orchestras, but I often find opera singers unable to do justice to musical theatre songs."

The productions from other states that use musical theater talent are fine. The Met's recent production of Porgy and Bess was dreadful. It had its moments but most opera singers are just not great actors and the direction and staging was leaden (as it usually is). The show felt interminable.
"

I don't agree at all. And I saw the definitive Houston Grand Opera production on Broadway in the 1970s. No, the recent Met debut wasn't the equal of that, but it was fine and I didn't miss the "Porgy-board" as much as I thought I might.

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GavestonPS
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Show Boat revival? #82
Posted: 5/31/20 at 8:08pm

joevitus said: "...At no time in our history, I think, has it been less possible to make this show work for a contemporary audience. And that doesn't reflect well on us."

Well argued, joe. You convinced me, at least.

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OlBlueEyes
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Show Boat revival? #83
Posted: 5/31/20 at 9:14pm

goodlead said: "In the 1951 movie, Ava Gardner sang "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" as a ballad. It's much more fun when it's a cakewalk, as in the 1936 movie and tbe Prince stage revival."

Agreed. Both the Prince and 1936 film clips of that are on YouTube. In fact, I think I linked them both on this thread.

It almost reminds me of The King and I with "Shall We Dance." Applause has barely stopped for the big exciting upbeat of the night when disaster strikes. Tuptim is caught and brought before the King and the Sheriff arrives to accuse Julie.

 

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OlBlueEyes
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Show Boat revival? #84
Posted: 5/31/20 at 10:23pm

The Prince production took a lot of flak in Toronto for being racist. In this clip, which I watched first broadcast so many years ago, some of the cast and creatives, including James Hammerstein, son of Oscar, Rebecca Luker and Michel Bell (Joe) are asked about the criticism. They don't have much to say about it. It appears that they were completely blindsided by the protests against a show that broke so many racial barriers.

If you hang around, Rebecca and Mark Jacoby sing "Make Believe," In part two, Michel Bell sings Ol' Man River. Michel seems to have made a career out of performing the role of Joe in Show Boat productions around the country.

https://youtu.be/svJULQxx9iY?t=38

We could make believe you're twenty,

We could make believe that you're six foot two.

Part 2. Ol' Man River and Can't Help Lovin'

Updated On: 5/31/20 at 10:23 PM
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OlBlueEyes
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Show Boat revival? #85
Posted: 6/1/20 at 2:12am

GavestonPS said: "joevitus said: "...At no time in our history, I think, has it been less possible to make this show work for a contemporary audience. And that doesn't reflect well on us."

Well argued, joe. You convinced me, at least.
"

I sure hope not. Show Boat, and the Prince revival specifically with its emphasis on the dirge Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun, ever supplemented by the anthem Ol' Man River, shows enough of the hard lives of the emancipated African Americans to reach the audience while still maintaining its entertainment value. Audiences do not like to be lectured to. 

I think I could say somethin' if you know what I mean
But if I really say it, the radio won't play it
Unless I lay it between the lines


Peter, Paul & Mary

"I Dig Rock & Roll Music"

 

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joevitus
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Show Boat revival? #86
Posted: 6/1/20 at 4:10am

GavestonPS said: "joevitus said: "...At no time in our history, I think, has it been less possible to make this show work for a contemporary audience. And that doesn't reflect well on us."

Well argued, joe. You convinced me, at least.
"

I value your opinion a great deal so--I blush. 

Globefan
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Show Boat revival? #87
Posted: 6/8/20 at 12:30am

I propose a new film adaptation which is both VERY VERY faithful to the stage production, while also reflecting the era we're living in with BLM. A whole new take on the story. 

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GavestonPS
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Show Boat revival? #88
Posted: 6/8/20 at 1:08am

Globefan said: "I propose a new film adaptation which is both VERY VERY faithful to the stage production, while also reflecting the era we're living in with BLM. A whole new take on the story."

I don't see how that is possible, but I look forward to your screenplay.

***

And re another post, yes, I have read Edna Ferber's novel. At the time (40+ years ago) I found its treatment of African-Americans largely consistent with the musical, though Julie is described much more harshly when she has fallen on hard times, more harshly than any version I've seen has ever portrayed her in Act II.

***

BlueEyes, I trust it's clear I deeply LOVE the show, but I don't see a way around some of the political problems mentioned in this thread. Maybe there should be a way to announce and produce some shows as "museum pieces", but it's hard to imagine an audience lining up for that.

Maybe we need an English director's take on the material, since that seems to appease everyone.

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joevitus
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Show Boat revival? #89
Posted: 6/8/20 at 1:42am

GavestonPS said: "Globefan said: "I propose a new film adaptation which is both VERY VERY faithful to the stage production, while also reflecting the era we're living in with BLM. A whole new take on the story."

I don't see how that is possible, but I look forward to your screenplay.

***

And re another post, yes, I have read Edna Ferber's novel. At the time (40+ years ago) I found its treatment of African-Americans largely consistent with the musical, though Julie is described much more harshly when she has fallen on hard times, more harshly than any version I've seen has ever portrayed her in Act II.

***

BlueEyes, I trust it's clear I deeply LOVE the show, but I don't see a way around some of the political problems mentioned in this thread. Maybe there should be a way to announce and produce some shows as "museum pieces", but it's hard to imagine an audience lining up for that.

Maybe we need an English director's take on the material, since that seems to appease everyone.


LOL on that last bit.

Hmm... I never thought the depiction of Julie was harsh. Magnolia loved her and hits or kicks Parthy to escape her grasp and run to hug Julie as Julie and Steve (if that's his name in the book) are leaving (Magnolia's, I think, about 10 in the book when this happens). The only other glimpse of Julie is when adult, married Magnolia goes into a brothel to find Ravenal and realizes suddenly, after she's left, that the maid at the door was Julie. But is that unkind to Julie or just unkind to the times she was forced to live through.

Updated On: 6/8/20 at 01:42 AM
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OlBlueEyes
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Show Boat revival? #90
Posted: 6/8/20 at 4:53am

BlueEyes, I trust it's clear I deeply LOVE the show, but I don't see a way around some of the political problems mentioned in this thread. Maybe there should be a way to announce and produce some shows as "museum pieces", but it's hard to imagine an audience lining up for that.

I'm not getting you at all on this. The wildly popular Prince revival was 25 years ago. How much have sensibilities changed since then? Big changes 1950 to 1980, but not since then. Charles Kuralt paid homage to the musical as the lead story of a CBS Sunday Morning. The Prince production received some early criticism in Toronto but rode it out and it never emerged in New York.

A new revival would be hit by publicity-seeking people like the Reverend Al Sharpton and (I was going to add Jesse Jackson but it's been a long time since we heard from him. If he's still alive his health must be poor. Remember when Jesse was overheard referring to New York City as "Hymietown" and he got away with it. No lasting damage. Hardly an apology.) Anyway, get past the people with an agenda. Show Boat gets a perpetual "Get Out of Jail Free" card just for containing the anthem "Ol' Man River." Hire a prestigious black actor or vocalist to play Joe and sing that song. The character of Joe was not criticized when he was played by Paul Robeson. Although Paul looks very trim and neatly dressed in the 1936 film to be an ignorant laborer. 

Show Boat is an entertainment. It raises certain issues of race. It does not dissect them. That would be a big turn-off for the audience.The show plays long enough.

I guarantee you that the centennial of this musical will be celebrated. Whether in a new film (not likely) or an expensive revival or at least in a prestigious concert.

I ordered the McGlinn 3 CD box set from Amazon for $12.28 and it's supposed to be here on Tuesday.

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joevitus
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Show Boat revival? #91
Posted: 6/9/20 at 3:11pm

OlBlueEyes said: "The wildly popular Prince revival was 25 years ago. How much have sensibilities changed since then? "

Ginourmously.

"Show Boat is an entertainment. It raises certain issues of race. It does not dissect them."

This would, I think, be the center of the problem for a contemporary audience. You're really going to tell me a nation that has just witnessed George Floyd's murder is going to be okay with a little Ol' Man River and "Oh how terribly unfair! Julie! Oh wait, the hot guy's here, let's forget about her"? I don't think so.

"I ordered the McGlinn 3CD box set from Amazon for $12.28 and it's supposed to be here on Tuesday."

It's great to have the full score preserved, but the pacing is tepid, Frederica Von Stade's diction is odd (for years I thought she was German based on her line readings) and her performance reminds me of Pauline Kael's quip that  Cyd Charisse speaks her lines as if she'd learned them phonetically, plus once again we've got a "secretly" nice Parthy in Nancy Kulp (when Magnolia says "It's just that I love Julie so much" Kulp ad-libs "I know. We all do." This isn't Parthy!).

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OlBlueEyes
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Show Boat revival? #92
Posted: 6/12/20 at 4:56pm

It's great to have the full score preserved, but the pacing is tepid, Frederica Von Stade's diction is odd (for years I thought she was German based on her line readings) and her performance reminds me of Pauline Kael's quip that  Cyd Charisse speaks her lines as if she'd learned them phonetically,

Here is a long and informative review and discussion of this set by Stephen Holden.

Yet the making of the record has reawakened racial tensions and raised questions about the impact of musicology on a form - the Broadway show - that has only recently become subject to intensive scholarly investigation. Magnificently recorded and sung, the album features Frederica von Stade as Magnolia Hawkes, the naive and romantic daughter of a riverboat captain; Jerry Hadley as Gaylord Ravenal, her feckless gambler-husband; Teresa Stratas as Julie LaVerne, Magnolia's mulatto friend; and Bruce Hubbard as Joe, the black stevedore who sings ''Ol' Man River.'' 

Unquestionably the most important fragment to be reinstated is the blues chorale, ''Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun,' '' whose full statement in the new recording deepens and darkens the mood of the show, and which Mr. McGlinn believes is essential to any future production.

William Hammerstein, who controls the Hammerstein interests in ''Show Boat,'' disagrees. ''It's a wonderful, moving piece of music, but it was cut for a reason,'' he argued last week. ''When experienced, knowledgeable people cut material from a show, it's because it's not working, and they're usually right. 

If the ultimate impact of this recording on future productions and recordings of ''Show Boat'' won't be known for many years, the album is certainly a landmark. Its vital, intense performances, especially Miss Stratas's Julie, along with the inclusion of all the dialogue for which Kern composed underscoring, much of it stirringly emotional, make this recording the fullest accounting of ''Show Boat'' we are likely to see any time soon.

And Mr. McGlinn's fluid pacing and his balancing of music and drama and are exemplary.

Harold Prince went for McGlinn's choice. I wonder what the final judgment of the Hammerstein son was.

https://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/25/theater/show-boat-makes-new-waves.html

I'm amused you thought you could school me in MGM history, though.

Every effort has been made to avoid any opinion that might conflict with your justifiably widespread reputation as one of the world's foremost MGM film authorities.

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joevitus
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Show Boat revival? #93
Posted: 6/12/20 at 5:04pm

Glad the reviewer liked it. Interesting that Ethan Mordden didn't. I think of the two, I know which has more experience (and love for) the material. 

I still think it's kinda boring with a bad lead but still good for hearing the full original score.

And I appreciate your respect for my degree in MGMology.

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GavestonPS
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Show Boat revival? #94
Posted: 6/15/20 at 6:46pm

joevitus said: "
Hmm... I never thought the depiction of Julie was harsh. Magnolialoved her and hits or kicksParthyto escape her grasp andrun to hug Julieas Julie and Steve (if that's his name in the book)areleaving (Magnolia's, I think, about 10 in the book when this happens). The only other glimpse of Julie is when adult, married Magnolia goes into a brothel to find Ravenaland realizes suddenly, after she's left, that the maid at the door was Julie. But is that unkind to Julie or just unkind to the times she was forced to live through."

joe, I read the Ferber book a half-century ago, so if you tell me I'm wrong, I'll trust you. But I remember recoiling at the description of the alcoholic, nearly "toothless" Julie at the brothel. No production of SHOW BOAT I've seen has made Julie literally ugly and broken-down. The fact that she is a brothel maid in the novel makes her seem "less" than the cabaret singer in the show.

But as I said in another thread, I was raised in a home where all alcohol was forbidden. I had some pretty effed up ideas about drinking and drunks when I was a teenager, which is when I read the book.

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GavestonPS
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Show Boat revival? #95
Posted: 6/15/20 at 6:57pm

Full disclaimer: the actress who plays Ellie on the McGlynn recording is my best friend from high school. She made her Broadway debut in the same role in the 1983 HGO revival, so I'm not entirely objective. I also like the Barbara Cook/John Raitt revival, but being a completist, if I play the show it's usually the McGlynn.

That said, I'm not a huge fan of using opera stars for Broadway musicals, unless it's to play Emile DeBeque.

In the winter stock production I spoke of above, the director did indeed restore "Misery..." to the score. I found that scene and Magnolia's folk-ballad version of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" the emotional highlights of the production. Well, there was also Julie Wilson singing "Bill", so several highlights!

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joevitus
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Show Boat revival? #96
Posted: 6/15/20 at 7:34pm

GavestonPS said: "joevitus said: "
Hmm... I never thought the depiction of Julie was harsh. Magnolialoved her and hits or kicksParthyto escape her grasp andrun to hug Julieas Julie and Steve (if that's his name in the book)areleaving (Magnolia's, I think, about 10 in the book when this happens). The only other glimpse of Julie is when adult, married Magnolia goes into a brothel to find Ravenaland realizes suddenly, after she's left, that the maid at the door was Julie. But is that unkind to Julie or just unkind to the times she was forced to live through."

joe, I read the Ferber book a half-century ago, so if you tell me I'm wrong, I'll trust you. But I remember recoiling at the description of the alcoholic, nearly "toothless" Julie at the brothel. No production of SHOW BOAT I've seen has made Julie literally ugly and broken-down. The fact that she is a brothel maid in the novel makes her seem "less" than the cabaret singer in the show.

But as I said in another thread, I was raised in a home where all alcohol was forbidden. I had some pretty effed up ideas about drinking and drunks when I was a teenager, which is when I read the book.
"

Now I'm desperately wishing I hadn't sold my copy because I don't think that's the case, but I can't say that with any assurance. Maybe I blocked the description out of my mind? I do remember she was obviously considerably older than she had been, but then Ferber's characters age as real people do. Somehow, with Hammerstein, everyone's still alive in 1927. They just have white hair. 


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