Surviving from the heyday of floating theater popular in the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, Showboat Majestic is the last original active showboat in the United States. This 200-seat venue is now permanently moored at Sawyer Point on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, and is a popular stage for those wanting an old-time American showboat experience. Majestic will take you back to the days of the 1927 Oscar Hammerstein classic musical "Show Boat", which glorified showboat entertainment on the great American waterways and gave a view into the lives of the performers, crew, and their families. Though it's not a traveling boat anymore, the rocking motion of the vessel can still be felt during performances, allowing modern audiences to experience the show like crowds did almost 100 years ago.
Very popular on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, showboats varied from small family owned crafts (like the Majestic), to grand, lavish boats that seated several thousand (like the 3,400 seat Floating Circus Palace, which was set afloat in Cincinnati in 1851). The showboat brought entertainment to those people who otherwise would not have had access due to their isolated location. Because of her small scale, the Majestic was able to reach even the most remote ports of the Ohio River Valley. Showboat productions included such genres as musicals, comedy, full length dramas, circus, vaudeville, variety shows, and burlesque. With increased access to great entertainment on land, the showboat era diminished after World War II.
Captain Thomas Jefferson Reynolds launched the Majestic near Pittsburgh in 1923. He and his family lived and performed on board for twenty years. Various universities then used the theatre as a summer stock venue for several more decades. In 1965 the "Safety at Sea Act," which stated that wooden-hulled vessels of this type were no longer allowed to transport performers, forced the Majestic to be dry-docked in Jeffersonville, Indiana, for several years. The city of Cincinnati later bought the vessel to use as a centerpiece for the development of the Ohio River Waterfront, and then leased it to the University of Cincinnati to use as a theatre until 1988. Cincinnati Landmark Productions finally took over the theatre in 1990 and it is currently an active warm weather venue. In 1989, Showboat Majestic was listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Cincinnati Landmark Productions strives to enhance the quality of life of the Cincinnati population by providing great entertainment at an affordable price. They encourage local performers and technicians while providing young entertainers with training and performance opportunities. While Showboat Majestic is a summer venue, during the colder months the company runs performances as well as special events, children's shows, and drama classes at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts in Cincinnati.
Showboat Majestic runs five productions yearly from May through September, each running three weeks. Past productions include popular Broadway musicals like "42nd Street," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," and "My Fair Lady," comedies such as "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "The Nerd," and mysteries like "The Art of Murder." There are typically five evening shows a week and one Sunday matinee. Prices for the 2010 season were $17 for adults and $16 for seniors, students, and children. A seasonal five show package is available for $75. Tickets are available online, at the box office, or by phone. In July they offer "Day Camp Days" with morning kid-friendly productions. Combination dinner cruise and showboat packages are available where you enjoy a two hour riverboat dinner cruise aboard one of the Queen City Riverboats, followed by a full length production aboard the Majestic. The theatre has reserved free parking on the public landing at Sawyer Point, as well as restrooms, air conditioning, and concessions.
- Main Box Office Location:
- Covedale Center for the Performing Arts
- 4990 Glenway Ave., Cincinnati, OH
- Phone: 513-241-6550
- Sawyer Point 705 East Pete Rose Way, Cincinnati, OH
- • Showboat Majestic: clpweb03.readyhosting.com and www.steamboats.org
- • Queen City Riverboats: www.queencityriverboats.com
- • Sawyer Point: www.cincinnatiusa.com/attractions/detail.asp?AttractionID=85