In no way whatsoever did I know what I was getting with this one. ALL I knew about it was a little clip from the beginning when the show boat shows up for the first time and the company does a kind of tambourine dance. It's a brief moment in the final video of the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios at Disney World. That's it! Three seconds at most. I was so hoping I'd like the whole movie, and I did!
I found the beginning to be a little slow, aside from the very fun opening when the boat comes into town, since it was hard to tell exactly where and who the story was going to focus on. But, once it found its focus, Magnolia and Gay, I was completely invested. I loved their story. It's certainly drama-filled, and Gaylord makes some truly terrible choices, but you can't hope but root for them to end up together.
I normally latch onto an upbeat song to be my favorite, but I have to say, there's a reason "Ol' Man River" is a classic. It's the only song from the musical I'd ever heard before (though I had no idea this is what it was from until the song started), and it's so compelling. Its production is lovely in its simplicity, and while it doesn't drive the plot of the movie forward, it never feels extraneous. I didn't think about it until I read up on the song, but the notes sung in the title phrase are some of the same as in the show's opening number, which is very upbeat and cheery--while "Ol' Man River" definitely is not. It's a lovely pairing and it shows the strength of the tune that it can be made into two very different songs. It never hurts that William Warfield's voice is absolutely stunning, either.
Since I'm only two musicals into this challenge, I really can't say where I'll place this one ultimately, but I know this is one I'll rewatch later on--and hopefully find a copy of the allegedly superior 1936 version to watch as well. I can see why it's considered a favorite, though, because it mixes a lot of fun moments (the opening, all of Ellie and Frank's numbers) with a very compelling story and characters you'll come to care about.
Next up, Guys and Dolls! Not a favorite, but one with some numbers I love.