[Show Boat] opened on Broadway at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927. The critics were immediately enthusiastic, and the show was a huge popular success, running for a year and a half, 572 performances.
The production was staged by Oscar Hammerstein II. Choreography for the show was by Sammy Lee. The original cast included Norma Terris as Magnolia Hawks and her daughter Kim (as an adult), Howard Marsh as Gaylord Ravenal, Helen Morgan as Julie LaVerne, Jules Bledsoe as Joe, Charles Winninger as Cap’n Andy Hawks, Edna May Oliver as Parthy Ann Hawks, Sammy White as Frank Schultz, Eva Puck as Ellie May Chipley, and Tess Gardella as Queenie. The orchestrator was Robert Russell Bennett, and the conductor was Victor Baravalle. The scenic design for the original production was by Joseph Urban, who had worked with Ziegfeld for many years in his Follies and had designed the elaborate new Ziegfeld Theatre itself. Costumes were designed by John Harkrider.
In his opening night review for the New York Times, Brooks Atkinson called the book’s adaptation “intelligently made”, and the production one of “unimpeachable skill and taste.” He termed Norma Terris “a revelation”; Charles Winninger “extraordinarily persuasive and convincing”; and Jules Bledsoe’s singing “remarkably effective”.