One of the minor pleasures of Show Boat (to be discussed next month) are the play-within-the-play scenes, of rough-hewn Mississippi audiences engrossed in the hokey old melodramas that chugged their way across the continent for most of the last century. Next week, East Lynne? If only. As the summer tents are folded away and the fall seasons of the regional reps hit their stride, Hammerstein’s affectionate show-within-the-boat spoofs remind you of a lush era when Ol’ Man The’ter, he jus’ kept rollin’ along, week after week, story after story: not just teary tales of distant exotics like Lady Isabel Mount Severn and Sir Francis Levison, but the vast panorama of nineteenth- century life—in 1879, there were forty-nine companies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin alone, and hundreds of lesser dramas of railroads and land claims, sheriffs and preachers, hoboes and drummers. Now, Broadway audiences pay sixty...

 
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