Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, we’re paying tribute to an important American musical — Show Boat, which first opened 95 years ago last week, on December 27, 1927! I don’t need to go into much detail about this classic to the well-versed readers here, but to succinctly sum up Show Boat’s legacy — it’s probably the largest step forward towards the “integrated” Broadway musical (where the score and book are intertwined, furthering the same narrative ideas) prior to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in 1943. And it boasts a score by both Oscar Hammerstein II himself and the great Jerome Kern, writing at the peak of his powers. So, it’s an iconic piece of theatre history — heck, American history.
If you’ve never seen Show Boat in performance before, I highly recommend the 1936 film adaptation from Universal, which includes a few Original Broadway Cast members, like Charles Winninger and Helen Morgan. Additionally, some of the original players appeared in the musical opening of the 1929 silent film — Tess Gardella and company sang “C’mon Folks (Queenie’s Ballyhoo)” and “Hey, Feller,” Jules Bledsoe offered his famous “Ol’ Man River,” and Morgan crooned — atop a piano — “Bill.” Additionally, we have commercial recordings from this period by those three performers as well. Unfortunately, there’s nothing from the original pair of lovers — Howard Marsh and Norma Terris… well, not officially.
That is, Norma Terris performed several songs from Show Boat in concert and on the radio, and thanks to the generosity of reader Scott Levine, I now have several tracks of her singing “Make Believe” that I’d like to share with you. This is the original Magnolia — the lady who first introduced these glorious songs 95 years ago! Here she is, at last.
From another radio performance, here’s Terris with the same soaring tune.
And lastly, here’s an audio of Terris appearing with Merv Griffin on the TV show Play Your Hunch, where she briefly sings both “Make Believe” and “Why Do I Love You?” This is from the late ’50s/early ’60s, but she’s still Magnolia through and through!
Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more sitcom fun!