ABOARD THE AMERICAN EMPRESS—I’m here to tell you that this ungainly looking river vessel with its fake smoke stacks and barely functioning paddle wheel has managed to come up with a fair number of pleasant surprises.
As a veteran of more than 60 cruises, I swear to you this one has collectively the friendliest and probably the happiest crew I have ever seen. And a second positive aspect I gradually became aware of is how well it has made use of its necessarily small showroom.
There are the usual silly games, of course. Trivia contests, “Liar Liar,” and the like. Plus an unusual daytime lecturer billed as a “riverlorian,” a woman who seems to know more about Lewis and Clark than did Lewis and Clark.
But as our vessel made its week-long way up the river, I noticed that each night the showroom became ever more alive, all surely due to the uninhibited show-biz talents of the cruise director and his wife.
Greg and Lindy Pendzick have more theatrical know-how in their young limbs and lungs than many so-called well-established performers on larger vessels. Backed up by four or five professional musicians (piano, sax, base, drums, and an occasional banjo), they demonstrated that there wasn’t a song and dance routine they couldn’t handle.
Tonight, for example, they made the most of bobby socks and leather jackets in a quick-change production called “Oh What a Night” which celebrated popular songs of the 50s and 60s. Their funny rendition of audience favorites like “Leader of the Pack” brought down the house.
The only uncertainty is how long Greg and Lindy (remember those names) can be held to a gig here on the Columbia River. If I can be around just a little longer, I will look forward to saying “Yes, I knew them when…!”