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Showboat ushers in a new era where set design is pivotal in maturing the legitimate stage

Photo caption: A circa 1910 vaudeville scene illustrates the detailed set created by stagehands, including marble steps, painted backdrop and props and costuming.

Source: Billy Rose Theatre Collection, New York Public Library

Showboat was staged at the Ziegfeld Theatre, with lavish and colorful settings filling the stage.  The lively levee, the Cotton Blossom showboat itself, with its stage on a stage, and a re-creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, overwhelmed audiences.  Showboat is also believed by many to be perhaps the first true musical play.