While planning a weekend getaway to celebrate a wedding anniversary, I happened upon the Minnesota Centennial Showboat. A melodrama version of Jekyll and Hyde was playing, and having seen a couple of melodramas in the past, it sounded as though it could be a fun part of the weekend for my wife and I, along with our teenage son.
We arrived at the showboat, which is moored at Harriet Island on the Mississippi River, just across from downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, to find ample and free parking close by. After a short walk to the ticket booth, we picked up our tickets to the matinee, which I had ordered online. The cashier was friendly and efficient. Also, the restrooms, which were conveniently located in the ticket building, were clean.
As we arrived by at the permanent gangway, we were greeted by a young man dressed in the clothes of the early 1900's. I would lean during the show that he was one of the actors. As we arrived at the boat, we were greeted by another young actor, again dressed in period costume, who offered a friendly greeting and tore off our ticket stubs. We then made our way into the showboat and looked around. The boat is of modern steel construction, with an old-time appearance. There was a small, but interesting, display about the boat, and its predecessor, which burned at dock in 1999.
Before the show, the actors who were not outside were in the lobby and were helpful and friendly when asked a question. One seemed genuinely delighted when my wife asked to have a picture taken with her. We were delighted as well.
Shortly before show time we made our way to our seats. We were seated in row C, which had a good view of the stage. But, since the auditorium is quite small, the view is likely good from any seat on the main floor or in the balcony.
The show started with a funny introduction by one of the female actors. Then, the pianist took his bench and started to play and set the theme.
The show was very entertaining and funny, as melodramas tend to be. All of the actors played their parts well, and the young gentleman who played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was especially funny when his body convulsed and contorted to convert form Jekyll to the menacing Hyde.
The many oleos, which consisted of songs, dancing, and acting between scenes in the melodrama, were equally entertaining. Each one was totally different and well done, sometimes with elaborate costumes.
The 15-minute intermission allowed us time to purchase a beverage and snack and to lounge on the deck of the boat. The concession counter offered popcorn, candy, soft drinks, beer, and mixed drinks. Fortunately, we walked immediately from our seats to the concession stand, before the line grew long.
I would have given the Minnesota Centennial Showboat a 5/5 rating, except that the relatively young boat was starting to show some rust spots, indicating that maintenance and repairs were needed. Also, a log jam, between the boat and the riverbank, was filled with litter and dead fish. A crew should clear the mess to make it a more presentable site.
My wife, 13-year old son, and I immensely enjoyed the setting of the showboat, the melodrama, and the oleos. The acting and singing were excellent, and we enjoyed the many laughs. We may make a visit to the showboat an annual tradition.
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