Gone are the days when showboats roved North American waterways, offering anything-goes entertainment for river-riding passengers. Consequently, audiences may experience some temporal confusion upon boarding the Minnesota Centennial Showboat. Docked at Harriet Island, the meticulously recreated floating stage opens to audiences every summer, offering a spirited evening of crowd-pleasing diversions that recall the Victorian era. The audience, nestled into the cozy environs of the vessel's jewel box theater, are provided an intimate display of vaudevillian showmanship courtesy of the University of Minnesota's Department of Theater Arts. This summer's production offers the mysterious thrills of The Vampire!, a 19th-century work by prolific British playwright James Robinson (J.R.) Planché. Leaving no Gothic cliché unturned, the piece follows the ghoulish title fiend through the fog-shrouded Scottish moors, pausing en route for an olio or two, the once fashionable musical interludes that used to remind audiences that even the most dastardly onstage schemes shouldn't get in the way of having a good time. Toward that end, audiences are welcome to indulge in the period custom of cheering the heroes and hissing at the villains. As an art form, such shamelessly populist fare was never a critical favorite, but cynics missed the sheer enjoyment of the ride. Powered by such an appealing legacy, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat could well be mistaken for a time machine. (Photo by Mark Vancleave)
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Starts: June 15. Continues through Aug. 25, 2012
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