Composer Jerome Kern and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II staged the operetta Show Boat, for the first time on December 27, 1927. This musical broke away from tradition play and supplied the audience with not only comedy and music. The Show Boat brought serious, powerful themes that appealed to the people of the 1920's, as well as today's society. We see in this production racism, alcoholism, interracial marriage, gambling addiction, and family abandonment. A community of showboat actors and laborers that work on the Cotton Blossom, a floating theater on the Mississippi River, brought these negative traits to the surface by their acting and singing. .
Upon the Cotton Blossom were white and black people living side by side. Their lifestyles were proved to be quite different in many ways, and we see how race decided their positions on the boat. We see in most of the scenes how the blacks would work in the background and the whites would play and socialize in the front. This is also symbolized by the lyrics to the songs. We see this in the opening scene, in which, the first song begins with a group of black men singing while they load bales of cotton on to a boat:.
" Niggers all work on the Mississippi.
Niggers all work while the white folk play-.
Loadin" up boats wid de bales of cotton.
Gettin" no rest till de Judgement Day".
We also see in the showboat community how blacks were not given the same rights as white people, due to the written law in Mississippi. We see this when Julie, the leading actress, is not allowed to perform on the showboat because it is discovered she has " Nigger blood" in her. She and her husband, Steve, are banned from the floating theater and almost imprisoned on the account of miscegenation. .
Captain Andy and his wife Parthy own and operate the Cotton Blossom. Joe, a laborer, and his wife Queenie, a cook on the Cotton Blossom, shows how color affects what status you hold.