That's Soooo Cincinnati

A Friendly Floater

Ryan Greis

There might be no experience in the country quite like seeing theater on board the Showboat Majestic. And that's because there simply aren't any more of its kind left in the country.

The Majestic is the last of the original floating showboats that would travel from town to town bringing live entertainment to river communities. Before there was an Aronoff Center, a Playhouse or even a Taft Theater, one of the few ways people in a town like Cincinnati could see the hit vaudeville act of its day was for a showboat to bring it.

Built in 1923 by Tom Reynolds, the Majestic traveled up and down the Ohio River and its tributaries for more than 20 years. Reynolds' family even served as both the boat's crew and cast. By World War II, the boat was anchored in West Virginia. But in 1945, Hiram College and Kent State University leased the Majestic from the Reynolds family as a summer theater experience for students. The alliance revived the concept of showboating. Then in 1960, Indiana University took over and maintained the tradition.

It was the "Safety at Sea ActO of 1965 — prohibiting the wooden-hulled Majestic from transporting its company town to town — that permanently put at end to Majestic's travels. It was tied up and dry-docked, this time in Jeffersonville, Ind.

The city of Cincinnati bought the boat and brought its history and tradition to the Queen City in 1967. Leased to UC until 1988 as a summer stock theater for its students, the Majestic is now operated by Cincinnati Landmark Productions, led by Artistic Director Tim Perrino.

Mounting a summer season of musical comedies and dramatic plays, Perrino's troupe stays true to the boat's original intention — bringing folks down to the river for a fine theatrical. In fact, the season is in full swing at present with one weekend left for a new mounting of the musical Damn Yankees; three more shows remain in the summer season.

A historic and unique reminder that the river continues to be the heart of this city ' that's soooo Cincinnati.

THAT'S SOOOO CINCINNATI highlights the area's quirky assets, hidden gems, unique personalities and criminal secrets — and reprises one of the most popular features in CityBeat's 10-year history.

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