This summer, the Showboat Majestic celebrates its 90th season. At the helm for the past 22 years, Tim Perrino has worked hard to keep the boat afloat—sometimes quite literally.
My mother was shocked that I went into theater. I was so shy as a child that she was concerned for me. I would do puppet shows
so that I could hide behind the couch. But then as I grew up, like so many other teen boys, I had images of myself as a rock star and formed a garage band.
When my proposal for the Showboat Majestic was accepted in December of 1990, I was so excited that I decided to drive to the Public Landing—even though I did not have the keys. My head was so full of thoughts of all that I planned to do that I barely noticed the water on the roadway until I got to Broadway and Mehring Way and could go no farther. The water was the Ohio River in flood!
Being in charge of the Showboat Majestic has been a steep learning curve because I was not just a theater guy, now I was also a river guy.
Flooding is often an issue. When the river level reaches 48 feet, we lose the ability to walk on. If it gets really high, we have to tie up the Showboat to the stair tower of U.S. Bank Arena and use a boat to board for daily inspections. The Flood of 1997 was the worst. I keep a pair of waders in the trunk of my car.
Our performers must be good at improvisation. Any show we produce must be able to accommodate the unexpected—fireworks at the stadium, the rocking of the boat, and whistles from barge traffic.
We are ending the season this year with The Music Man because the Showboat Majestic is the ultimate piece of Americana and The Music Man is the ultimate musical salute to its importance as the last working showboat in America.
As a student at Elder High School, Perrino was introduced to musical theater when he chose glee club over study hall.
The Rest is History
Showboat Majestic’s maiden voyage was in 1923. The City of Cincinnati acquired it in 1967. Perrino took over in 1990. “That was the beginning of my sharp learning curve about life on the river,” he says.
Perrino is the artistic director for Cincinnati Landmark Productions, the company responsible for the Showboat, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, and the Cincinnati Young People’s Theatre, which he founded more than 30 years ago.
In 2001, Tim and his wife, Jennifer, began a campaign to save the Covedale, the treasured west side movie theater. After a massive fund-raising effort and renovation, it reopened in 2002.
Photograph by Jonathan Willis.
Originally published in the May 2012 issue.