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December 27: Showboat and Paul Robeson

Lawrence Bush
December 27, 2009

“Showboat,” considered to be the first modern Broadway musical, opened at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York on this day in 1927. The show was created by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, based on a 1926 novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Edna Ferber. “Showboat” tackled controversial themes of interracial marriage and social repression. The show ran for 572 performances and yielded two film versions.
To see Paul Robeson singing “Ol’ Man River” in the film version, look below.
“Let me go ‘way from the Mississippi,/Let me go ‘way from de white man boss;/Show me dat stream called de river Jordan,/Dat’s de ol’ stream dat I long to cross.” —Ol’ Man River, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.