Aboard the paddlewheel steamboat, the Silver Gull, live Captain Barnacle, Grandma (who predicts bad weather by her aching knees which necessitates the use of Cousin George’s Liniment) and his daughter, Lulu. Times are tough for river steamboats, what with newfangled railroads used for shipping. The Captain can no longer pay crew member William, in love with Lulu and she with him, nor meet payments on the Silver Gull mortgage, owned by Snarling Sam.

Sam announces his intent to foreclose unless he receives all back payments by the time the next storm arrives, which Grandma’s knees predict will be soon. Sam plans to turn the boat into a gambling den to be run by his girlfriend, Whoopee Jane, a woman he found wandering the streets and suffering from amnesia. William, while relaxing on a river bank, discovers a pirate chest that contains enough gold to pay off the mortgage. Also, William learns that Whoopee Jane is his long, lost sister. In the ensuing confrontation with Snarling Sam aboard the deck of the Silver Gull, the glass bottle of Cousin George’s Liniment crashes to the deck. Sam slips on the oily mixture and dramatically disappears into the churning paddlewheel to end his miserable life.

arrow Production Notes


Characters: 3 m; 5 f; 2 m or f (dog and Master/Mistress of Ceremonies); and Chorus (as many as desired). Show can be done with cast of 9 (Captain for Master of Ceremonies and no Chorus).

Playing Time: About an hour, depending on intermission acts.

Costumes: Gay nineties style. Ladies in long dresses. Jane wears feathered boa and floppy hat; Lulu wears demure dress and bow at nape of neck; Granny has powdered hair (or gray wig) and wears apron and shawl; Snip and Snoop wear high-necked, severe dresses and prim hats and carry purses and gloves. Captain has beard and wears blue suit, white turtleneck shirt, and yachting hat; William has sideburns and wears jeans with patches on knees, vest over plaid shirt; Sam has black moustache, flowing cape, and top hat; Chicory is dressed as a dog (ears attached to cap, false nose, brown turtleneck shirt and matching tights, attached tail, and socks over hands and feet); Master of Ceremonies wears a derby, bow tie, and fancy jacket (possibly sequined).

Setting: Backdrop painting of New Orleans with cyprus trees, docks, and Mississippi River. Cardboard cutouts for deck railing. Suggest building cabin from large, torn-apart, cardboard boxes, nailed to wooden frame and painted to look like wooden planks with life preserver and "Ship Sweet Ship" sampler. Side panel curtain on left. On deck, rocker, Captain-style chair, small table, spittoon with plant (crepe paper leaves), boxes, kegs, curled rope, and barrel (large enough for Chicory).

Properties: Knitting material (basket, needles, yarn, and long knit muffler), flower bouquet, shawl, large chicken feather, bottle (labeled Cousin George's Best); 2 teacups, cap gun.

Lighting: No special effects necessary. Optional--flick stage lights off and on when thunder sounds to indicate lightening.

Sound: Effects live by Chorus or backstage sound crew or create tape. Play over amplifier. List of effects: dog scratching (rub sand blocks); birds, frogs, and mosquitoes; William falling down (shake suitcase of old pans and drop case to floor); falling in river (rock dropped in bucket of water and hand splashing); steam engine, steamboat whistle; gun shots (caps in toy pistol, fired by Sam); thunder (shake metal cookie sheet).

arrow Selected Audio Excerpts by the Bristow Singers
Daffodils and Daisies
Sailing Down the Mississippi River
Whoopee Jane's My Name