The Morgan Plan

Todd Decker

in Show Boat

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199759378
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979554 | DOI:

Series: Broadway Legacies

                      The Morgan Plan

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Nightclub singer Helen Morgan defined the important role of Julie. The interpolated song “Bill,” a signature moment in act two, was chosen specifically to match Morgan's existing persona as a singer of torch songs. Hammerstein changed Julie's character as described in Ferber's novel to match Morgan's public persona as a symbol of resistance to Prohibition. Morgan's difficulties with the law during Show Boat's Broadway run proved important to the show's continuing profitability. Julie's role in act one was written before Morgan was cast. She performed “Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man” in a manner that deflected issues of race surrounding her character. Morgan's approach to the song—singing in a “white” manner—is compared to the very different style adopted by blackface singer Tess Gardella who performed under the stage name Aunt Jemima.

Keywords: Helen Morgan; Texas Guinan; Aunt Jemima; Tess Gardella; Florenz Ziegfeld; Prohibition; nightclubs; torch singing

Chapter.  6335 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music ; Popular Music

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