Throwback Thursday: North Carolina’s Musical Theater Ties to Show Boat

May 23, 2019

The James Adams Floating Theatre was the first and only travelling boat to bring live theater annually to ports between Baltimore and Savannah. The original traveling show boat of the Southeast, the James Adams was constructed in North Carolina and it sailed the southeast from 1914-1941. Edna Ferber wrote her 1926 novel “Show Boat” which launched the “show boat phenomena” into American culture after visiting the James Adams Floating Theatre while it was docked in Bath, N.C. She is believed to have travelled on the James Adams from Bath to Belhaven, N.C. in April 1925. Ferber’s novel, inspired in part by the James Adams, led to the 1927 “Show Boat” musical and its song “Old Man River,” and later the 1929 “Show Boat” motion picture and its 1936 and 1951 remakes.

North Carolina's own Ava Gardner sings "Can't Stop Lovin' That Man" in Show Boat (1951)