The Night Boat

The Night Boat

(L) Louise Groody with ensemble players;
(R) John E. Hazzard[1]
Music Jerome Kern
Lyrics Anne Caldwell
Book Anne Caldwell
Basis farce by Alexandre Bisson
Productions 1920 Broadway

The Night Boat (1920) is a musical in three acts, based on a farce by Alexandre Bisson, with a book and lyrics by Anne Caldwell and music by Jerome Kern. The story lampoons the notorious New York City-to-Albany night boat, on which clandestine romances were common.

After out-of-town tryouts, the musical was produced on Broadway by Charles Dillingham, where it opened on February 2, 1920 at the Liberty Theatre under the direction of Fred G. Latham and Ned Wayburn, with music direction by Victor Baravalle. The Night Boat had a successful initial run of 313 performances, closing on October 30, 1920[2][3] and opening for a new run in Boston soon afterwards, followed by successful tours.[4]


The team that created the famous Princess Theatre musicals broke apart acrimoniously in 1918, and Kern was eager to work with the affable Caldwell. The Night Boat was an immediate hit in New York, and her role in the musical made Louise Groody a Broadway star, going on to play, among others, the title role in No, No, Nanette in 1925. Kern and Caldwell collaborated a few more times in the 1920s before each turned to other collaborators. Since the original run and tours, the show has never been revived in a full production. The New Amsterdam Theatre Company revived the show in concert in 1983 in New York, as did 42nd Street Moon in 1996 in San Francisco.[4]


In order to enjoy romantic evenings or weekends away from home, Bob White has convinced his wife, Hazel, and his mother-in-law that he is the captain of an Albany night boat. Becoming suspicious, the mother-in-law directs an investigation which brings Bob's relatives down upon him during one of his trips. Bob borrows the real captain's uniform, but he must soon explain away two love triangles.[2][4]

Musical numbers

Act 1
Act 2
Act 3

Roles and original principal cast

Critical reaction

The Forum, January, 1920, wrote:

Charles Dillingham piloted The Night Boat past the shoals of failure that lie in wait for every theatrical production, and anchored it firmly in the pleasing waters of the harbor of success. As his aides he summoned Anne Caldwell, author of a score of successful librettos, and Jerome Kern, who cannot write music that is not catchy. Of course, there is not much to the story, and the fact that the plot is of exceeding age matters but little. Who cares for a story when there is a good laugh, a swinging tune, and a pretty girl? Of the pretty girls, first honors go to Louise Groody, who danced all over the boat, and a young lady named Stella Hogan. John E. Hazzard and Ernest Torrance were the fun makers, ably assisted by Ada Lewis, who is, as always, amusing. The Night Boat is sure of a long trip.[5]

The New York Times noted the audience's enthusiasm for the new piece and praised Dillingham's showmanship, predicting that several of the songs would become popular.[6]


  1. Photo from The Green Book magazine, January 1920.
  2. 1 2 Burns Mantle Yearbook 1920, pp. 421–422
  3. The Night Boat – Internet Broadway Database
  4. 1 2 3 MacKellan, Greg. Night Boat, 42nd Street Moon, 1996, accessed March 22, 2012
  5. The Forum, Vol. 63, January 1920, p. 372 (Google Books)
  6. "The Night Boat Arrives", The New York Times, February 3, 1920, accessed March 21, 2012
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