Steamboat Illustrations, Page 6


This stage version of SHOW BOAT debuted late last year at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England.

The trailer on YouTube demonstrates that this version was imaginative and "Hell for Leather" in style. Much more adventurous than the versions I've seen here in the U.S. The choreography resembles the calisthenics we all did in gym class.

Notice that the steamboat graphic on the stage curtain at the bottom of the picture is the same one we have in 3rd position on ILLUSTRATIONS 26 that I described as looking like it was done in pen and ink by the French illustrator Gustave Doré Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see that image and the caption I wrote. I located the graphic on the La Crosse site. It is possible that the art director for the Sheffield SHOW BOAT saw that "Doré" style graphic on steamboats.com and decided it would be perfect for the "wild and crazy" production that the Brits put on last year. Wish they'd bring that production to the U.S.

youtube.com Show Boat trailer
youtube.com The Making of Show Boat

Sheffield Theatres

Published on Dec 23, 2015

See the critically acclaimed Show Boat at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield until Saturday 23 January.

To book go to sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0114 249 6000.

Theatre review



Show Boat, Sheffield Crucible, review: 'something special'

Claire Allfree

17 DECEMBER 2015 • 12:16PM

Oh, how Sheffield Theatres will miss Daniel Evans. The outgoing artistic director, recently announced as the new head of Chichester Festival Theatre, has an assured reputation for copper-bottomed productions of classic musicals. But this revival of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's lesser performed 1927 work is, even by his standards, something special.

It was a radical piece for its time. Based on Edna Ferber's novel about the tumultuous lives of a group of performers aboard the Mississippi show boat Cotton Blossom, it combines a panoramic snapshot of a changing America with detailed close-ups of personal hardship.

Spanning several decades from the late 1800s, it tackles racism, alcoholism, women's rights, gambling and the dawn of modernity. These were rare subjects back then for musical theatre, and in that great American musical tradition, Show Boat effortlessly views them through the telescoping lens of show business itself.

Kern's score is sublime, a groundbreaking mix of high opera and popular show tunes. Under the direction here of musical supervisor David White, every sound is lush, sonorous and extravagantly beautiful. Indeed, Show Boat is waterlogged with feeling.

Lez Brotherston's set, which combines wooden board walks with the light-bedecked bow of the Cotton Blossom, provides a clean backdrop to some richly explored performances. Racial tension simmers everywhere, from the bitter chorus of opening song, Cotton Blossom - "coloured folks work while white folks play" - to use of the N-word by a belligerent white man as he manhandles the sweating black stevedores. Most powerfully of all, Emmanuel Kojo's Joe, one of the black shiphands, lends Show Boat's most famous song, Ol' Man River, a magnificent note of plangent fatalism. It is a note that, through the song's repeated refrain, throbs throughout the show like a sorrowful heartbeat.

The singing is exquisite. Rebecca Trehearn's Julie, forced to end her career on the Cotton Blossom when it's revealed that she is half negro and thus guilty of inter racial marriage, lends a gorgeously deep, oaky quality to the musical's second big musical moment, Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man.

Gina Beck's Magnolia, who marries Michael Xavier's dashing but tormented Gaylord only to be abandoned by him years later in Chicago because of his gambling debts, and who transforms from pink cheeked innocent to powerfully assured grown woman, brings the house down with After The Ball. Sandra Marvin's Queenie, meanwhile, sings Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun' as though she possesses a sadness as old and deep as the river itself. Hammerstein's songs are mainly concerned with the subject of love but almost every note here articulates a deeper emotional subtext of regret and yearning, and as the show progresses, a terrible awareness of time passing.

There's some terrific character work from Allan Corduner as Captain Hawks who affectionately squabbles with his hatchet-faced wife Parthy, while Danny Collins and Alex Young inject plenty of wit as a couple of ghastly show biz wannabes.

Alistair David's slick choreography is beautifully deployed, too, no less so than during a racially charged dance "stand off" aboard the Cotton Blossom. Evans marshals what can become a rather choppy plot with fast, dream -like fluidity, ripping through the passing years in the second half with evocative use of projected newspaper headlines and finding in the show's final scenes a heart-aching note of redemption.

This is a terrific production, full of seamlessly integrated colour and detail. It is the kind of show that leaves you feeling choked, shivery and on an absolute high.

Until Jan 23. Tickets: 0114 249 6000; sheffieldtheatres.co.uk


Sheet music cover for STEAMBOAT RAG by Ernie Burnett Copyright 1911
Published by SYNDICATE MUSIC CO. 3818 LaClede Ave St. LOUIS, MO 1914

A 1911 piano roll of the ragtime melody is played on a player piano which is finessed by foot and hand controls during performance at this link:


Steamboat Rag (Burnett) Ampico Lexington 88n

Published on Feb 21, 2013
Golden Age recut of Universal 88n # 66794B (Burnett)


Advertisement from the Saturday Evening Post May 31st 1958 page 79

The following is featured on SAMUEL L. CLEMENS' STEAMBOAT CAREER

by Barbara Schmidt and Dave Thomson
on twainquotes.com twainquotes.com (1)
twainquotes.com (2)

When a pilot "calls for the lead" he gives the command with a signal from the whistle or bell. Soundings are taken from either side of the boat, and when necessary from both sides. One signal from the pilot house sends a leadsman to the starboard (right) side, two signals to the larboard (left or "port" side).

The same signals from the pilothouse recall the leadsman from his post.

Soundings are taken at the discretion of the pilot, when making a crossing, going through seldom used chutes, or at any time when there is doubt regarding the depth of the water. When a leadsman is at work the pilot expects to be informed of the depth of the channel about every hundred feet.

Throughout the leadsman's chanting, pilots listen hopefully for "No Bottom." To them this is the leadsman's sweetest song.

When a boat can be kept in deep water the danger of going aground is avoided.

From "Steamboatin' Days - Folks Songs of the River Packet Era" by Mary Wheeler. Louisiana State University Press, 1944.


The soundings as "sung out" by the "Leadsman":

"Quarter Less Twain" - ten and one-half feet

"Mark Twain" - twelve feet (two fathoms)

"Quarter Twain" - thirteen and one-half feet

"Half Twain" - fifteen feet

"Quarter Less Three" - sixteen and one-half feet

"Mark Three" - eighteen feet (three fathoms)

"Quarter Three" - nineteen and one-half feet

"Half Three" - twenty-one feet

"Quarter Less Four" - twenty-two and one-half feet

"Mark Four" (or "Deep Four") - twenty-four feet (four fathoms)

"No Bottom" - over twenty-four feet


Attached scan of Don Davey's pencil sketch/drawing of the "modern" NATCHEZ steamboat which Doc Hawley was Captain of for quite a while.

Don Davey began his distinguished career at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and the warmth and vitality of his drawings have won constant praise and recognition.

His illustrations have lent sparkle to such magazines as McCalls, Saturday Evening Post and Fortune.

While residing on the west coast he served on the faculty of the American Academy of Art in San Francisco and was instrumental in the formation of the Society of Illustrators which he served as president.

On invitation of the United States Air Force, he toured the Orient in return for his subsequent painting presently on world tour and part of the permanent collection of the United States Air Force documentary art program.

An award winning artist with both gold and silver medals to his credit, Mr. Davey's technique, at once factual and impressionistic, has won him a following the world over.

The popularity of his work is best acknowledged by the public's acquisition of well over one million lithographs by collectors both here and abroad.

A resident of New Orleans for seven years, he remains an avid and enthusiastic traveler. Recently returned from a painting trip of Europe and Polynesia, Mr. Davey is constantly in search of new subject matter unique to the area he is exploring.

His beautiful and impressive collection of treasured landmarks presently includes Chicago's Old Town, California's Monterey Peninsula, San Francisco, Louisiana plantation homes, New Orleans and Hawaii.

If your favorite store cannot supply you, write Colony Publishing Inc., 615 Montgomery, San Francisco, California 94111.

Statement by the artist:

"My purpose as an artist is to communicate my own visual and emotional response to the old world atmosphere of this historic city, to share with the viewer my own intimate impressions, and to see through the inner eye of the artist the tranquil beauty of the stately St. Louis Cathedral, the sun casting fragile shadows on wrought iron lacework, the sculptured textures of weathered old buildings and courtyards, and to awaken visual memories of your visit so that the past, momentarily reborn, becomes the present."


National Parks study plan to introduce school children to Steamboat History!
Recommended for educators seeking a study plan to teach steamboat history to school kids! Contact: nps.gov

recent acquisitions

A 1905 color insert for LIFE magazine inked and painted by artist Albert Levering. Here's Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) in a playful caricature as a pilot steering the steamboat "American Humor."

The lettering in RED was YELLOW in the original; very hard to "read" against white so I converted those letters to red to make them more readable and agreeable.

recent acquisitions

New acquisition: framed John Stobart print.

ST. LOUIS. The "Gateway to the West" in 1878 {Issued: 1978 }


recent acquisitions

Scan of stylized steamboat graphic on the back of a playing card. It is just a coincidence the cards are marked "Thomson." Dave Thomson does not own a casino.

NATCHEZ dennis lyall remarque pilot saturated 40 percen EXP

A print of illustrator Dennis Lyall's painting of the NATCHEZ 1869, probably commissioned for use on first day of issue envelopes for 5 steamboats in a set of 1996 U.S. commemorative stamps designed by Dean Ellis:

The NATCHEZ is not one of the five steamboats on the stamps which were: The Robt. E. Lee 1866, the Sylvan Dell 1872, the Far West 1870, the Rebecca Everingham 1880 and the Bailey Gatzert 1890. (Copies of the stamps are inset in the lower right corner of Lyall's painting).

In the bottom margin is a original hand drawn remarque by Lyall of a steamboat pilot (possibly intended to represent Sam Clemens) at the pilot wheel.


32 cent stamps.


With the exception of images credited to certain institutions,
most of the images on this page are from a private collection.
Please request permission before reproducing our images in any publication.*