American Queen

Our Crew

Entertainer

Mary Charlton
Her love of the river came early. During Mary's first few years, her family lived in Portsmouth, OH, and she still remembers hearing the sound of the whistles as she drifted off to sleep at night. Her family moved to the Cincinnati area, and in high school she wrote a term paper on steamboats. Mary's parents surprised her with a cruise on the Delta Queen as a present when she graduated from college. Although she tried for a job on the boat then, none were available-so she continued her education, earning a Master of Education degree from the University of Cincinnati. She raised a family, and worked in a number of different fields. But Mary never lost her love for the river and its heritage.

In 2005, she made a decision that would, at last, fulfill a lifelong dream: Determined to work, in any job they would give her on the Delta Queen. Mary was honored in 2006 to earn the title of Riverlorian on that historic vessel. She also traveled with BB Riverboats of Cincinnati as Riverlorian on the Belle of Cincinnati. The steamboat, and how it affected America's history, continues to fascinate her. She has continued to study the men and women who populate the history and stories around our rivers, continuing into the issues that affect our lives today. Rivers-and their stories-are her passion.

Mary Charlton has been active in the effort to "Save the Delta Queen". This was a drive to convince congress to renew the exemption that the boat held for many years that kept her in service. That effort is still in progress and we all hope that it is successful. The Delta Queen is currently being used as a hotel in Chattanooga, TN and being well cared for, while awaiting the time when she can be returned to passenger service on the rivers.


Jerry Hay
Jerry Hay's passion for the rivers began at an early age, growing up near the Wabash River in Indiana. He built his first boat at the age of 14 and his many river adventures began. Over the years he has traveled many rivers and written river guidebooks for the Wabash River, White River, Ohio River, Illinois Waterway, Tennessee River and Cumberland River. These book are very helpful for those wishing to safely travel the rivers in their own boats.

Hay has also authored three published books about rivers. "Beyond the Bridges" is a hard cover book about river stories, history and practical information. It is also available in a soft cover edition titled "Rivers Revealed." Hay experienced an unusual relationship with a goose that he rescued and the story became a popular children's book titled "A Goose Named Gilligan". He also produced a CD of humorous river stories called "Life on the River."

Jerry has traveled or worked on many types of watercraft. They include canoes, kayaks, jonboats, pontoon boats, deckboats, cruisers, towboats, steamboats and even a raft. He spent many years serving as Riverlorian on the Delta Queen, American Queen and Mississippi Queen.


Travis C. Vasconcelos
Serving as Riverlorian aboard the Str. AMERICAN QUEEN is a fitting place to meet up with Travis as she features a calliope he was part of the conception of. His love of the river began at the young age of 3, when he first remembers hearing the unique pied piper of the river. "I remember asking, what is that sound and being told, it's the showboat calliope calling people to the show", says Travis. The Showboat MAJESTIC was playing her calliope at the city front of Jeffersonville, IN back in 1967 when he first heard the call of the river.

After that first trip on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, Travis came to know the Captain and the crew of the vessel and visited often to hear and play the calliope. He would record the calliope and practice from what he heard. This lead to opportunities to meet other calliope players and crew members on many other boats like the DELTA QUEEN, MISSISSIPPI QUEEN, and JULIA BELLE SWAIN. All the while absorbing the stories of the rivers from the men and women who had gone before him. "I was very fortunate to have come to the rivers when I did, for I got to know and work with some of the last of the steamboaters from the end of the fabled steamboat age", says Travis. He didn't know it at the time...but, the calliope had called him to the river with purpose.

In 1981 he assumed the position of Calliopist aboard the Str. BELLE OF LOUISVILLE where he branched out into many other fields aboard the boat. He worked as a Deck Hand, Narrator, Souvenir Person, and later even a Public Spokesperson for the vessel in his 14-year career with the boat.

In 2003, Travis came back to the rivers as Riverlorian of the Str. MISSISSIPPI QUEEN. He would serve aboard her, the Str. DELTA QUEEN, and the Str. AMERICAN QUEEN over the next 6 years. "When overnight steamboating came to an end, I was lost! " Writing articles, making appearances to give talks about river history, performing on calliopes, and visiting on the rivers has filled his time. Dreaming about returning to the rivers on a full-time basis has been an obsession for him.

In 2012 he will be making a return to his beloved rivers on the Grandest Steamboat Ever Built, the Str. AMERICAN QUEEN for the American Queen Steamboat Company of Memphis, TN. as Riverlorian. Along with seasoned fellow Riverlorians Jerry Hay and Mary Charlton he will share the duties of educating the guests as well as entertaining them with facts, fiction, anecdotes, and the true fun of the rivers. Not to mention a little calliope playing when time permits...for he has once again answered the calliope's call.

Larry Cox, Jr.
Larry is delighted to be onboard the American Queen. He holds a Masters degree in Drama from Villanova University. He recently completed Cinderella with the Nashville Symphony. Some of his favorite credits include Young Soldier/Fiddlin' John in the Philadelphia Premiere of Parade, Huckleberry Finn in Big River and Cornelius Hackl in Hello Dolly. He is a published composer and arranger and serves as a Director, Music Director, Actor, Vocal Solosist and Dramaturg for theatre projects nationally and internationally. Regional Credits: North Carolina Theatre, Atlanta Lyric, Tokyo Disney, Sight and Sound and Villanova Theatre. Television credits: Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf. Always grateful for my wonderful family and dear friends. Phil 1:6.


Matthew Aaron
Matthew Aaron is an actor who is driven by an incredible passion for self-expression. His roles are often noted for their unique blend of passion, grace, and fire. Matthew has created characters that are unforgettable. He has appeared in theaters all over the country, in such productions as Disney's Beauty and the Beast, 1776, Jesus Christ Super Star, A Christmas Carol, and The Lost Colony. He was nominated for a Perry Award for his role as Cinderella's Prince in Into the Woods. Matthew has also appeared in feature films, television shows, as well as independent movies. Born and raised in Freehold, NJ, Matthew had spent his early years creating short skits with his sister for family and friends that never saw the light of day. Matthew remembers watching his father on stage, at a very young age, thinking, "I can do that." Even in his earliest days, he was fascinated by acting. Matthew started his education early; in high school he attended the Fine and Performing Arts Center (FPAC) in Howell, NJ. He studied acting, jazz, and vocal performance, as a student of FPAC. His studies continued at HB Studios in New York where Matthew's love of acting was uncontrollable. New York was the perfect playground for Matthew to study people, and listen to their stories. He got the opportunity to perform locally and also in a TV spot for the History Channel. Having his passion for the arts ignited he landed his first regional show in North Carolina and has continued to land other regional roles in theaters across the country. While continuing his theatrical career, Matthew is also focusing on media opportunities. After shooting for the History Channel, as well as a few indie films and shorts, he has fallen in love with the filming process.


Keia Johnson
She has a voice that can launch a thousand ships, and the drive to keep them afloat. Add to that heaps of personality and a raw talent that sends the blues colliding with its rebellious offspring rock’n’roll and you've got a style Keia Johnson has dubbed “Rock Soul.” Growing up overseas in a military family, Keia listened to a wide range of artists from Alanis Morissette and Erykah Badu to Marvin Gaye and Mint Condition. While her sound can’t be pinned down to one influence or another, those artists inspired her to be more than mediocre – more than just a pretty voice. Her lyrics are inspired by the perspective she gained living outside of her home country and the life lessons she learned along that road. But she didn’t find her sweet spot on stage until she returned to Memphis and started singing with cover bands. The experience evolved her into a great interpreter of songs, able to bring her unique articulation and personality to everything from Judy Garland to The Black Eyed Peas. She has performed with some of the best talent Memphis has to offer, while also building relationships with notable national names like The Bar-Kays and pushing herself as an entertainer -- she made her acting debut in 2011 in the independent film “Lesson Before Love,” for which she was also featured on the soundtrack. Keia is determined to have her voice heard – this is the girl who once charmed her way into an audition for an adult choir with GRAMMY® nominee James Bignon, after all. He requested that Keia sing her own solo. After making history for the Pacific Wide Gospel Concert, she took part in several television shows and celebratory performances. But it was American Idol that served as the true catalyst for Keia to recognize who she was as an artist and what she wanted to do with her career. The talent competition led her to Hollywood where “Miss Congeniality” wowed the judges. Her audition performance of Celine Dion’s vocally rigorous “My Heart Will Go On” prompted guest judge and musical role model Mary J. Blige to simply declare: “She can sing!” And sing she has -- for everyone from President Bill Clinton and Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton to Tyler Perry, Denise Williams and Eric Jerome Dickey. In June of 2011, Keia released her first solo effort, T.I.M.E. Look for an EP in the spring of 2012 that will highlight Keia’s passion for giving back, featuring songs for children and an accompanying reader with a portion of all proceeds designated to children’s charities. In the meantime, keep up at ContactKeia.com.


Lydia Myers
Lydia Myers is thrilled to be working alongside such talented artists and joining the crew of the American Queen. Originally from the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, Lydia discovered her love of music and theatre at a young age, leading her to perform locally in community theatre and sing in church choir. Eventually this love brought her to Samford University's School of the Arts where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Musical Theatre. While in school, Lydia was able to play a variety of roles; her favorites include Tracy Samantha Lord in High Society, Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, and Adele in Die Fledermaus. Lydia also had the pleasure of singing with Samford's world renown A Capella Choir. Her involvement enabled her to sing in many venues across the world including Beijing's Forbidden City Concert Hall, Notre Dame de Paris, and St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Since her time in school, Lydia has worked at several theatres and performance venues across the country. These include Flatrock Playhouse (The State Theatre of North Carolina), The Roxy Playhouse (located in Morton, Washington), Stone Mountain Park, and Dollywood. For the past two years, Lydia has portrayed the role of "The Girl in the Green Dress" in Dollywood's award-winning show Dreamland Drive-In, a role that earned her a nomination for Female Performer of the Year through the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Aside from performing, Lydia enjoys traveling and is an avid reader, who will take or give any book suggestion to anyone who asks. She would like to give a shout out to her mother and father, who she believes are the most loving, patient, supportive parents a girl could wish for. And as always, she thanks her Savior Jesus Christ, who has made all this possible and for whom all this for.


Chris Handley
Originally from Buffalo, NY, he has a BFA in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia and is currently living in New York City when not on the American Queen.
In New York he has performed with Broadway stars Karen Akers, Melanie Vaughan and Eric Michael Gillette. He has sung across New York City at Don't Tell Mama's, the Laurie Beechman, the Duplex, Symphony Space, and with Opening Doors Theatre Company, (re:)Directions Theatre Company, BMI Workshop, TheatreWorks/USA, Richmond Shepard Theatre, Theatre Row and reGroup Theatre Company. Across the country, he has performed in such shows as: The Producers (Leo), Hello Dolly! (Cornelius), She Loves Me (Georg), Singin In The Rain (Cosmo), Into The Woods (Baker), Wizard Of Oz (Lion), Lucky Stiff (Harry), Romeo and Juliet (Nurse/Tybalt), The Robber Bridegroom (Goat), You're a Good Man Charlie Brown (Charlie), Beauty and The Beast (Beast), Chorus Line (Zach), The Pajama Game (Pop), Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (Dodd), High School Musical, Blood Brothers, Crazy For You, West Side Story, Full Monty, and Annie. He received Buffalo's Artie nomination twice, Reefer Madness (Jimmy) And Assassins (Booth). Chris originated the role of Gary, a neurotic greeting card salesman in Mating Habits Of The Urban Mammal, a new musical by TONY nominee Michael Leeds (Swingin on a Star), Peggy Gordon (Godspell) and Timothy Graphenreed (The Wiz). Other new pieces include The Secret of Our Souls, A Christmas Carol (Fred/Young Scrooge), Howe and Hummel (Ponzi, a blonde curly haired Italian...), The Raconteurs (Jack Benny). On the web, he plays opposite Guiding Light and Days of Our Lives stars Tina Sloan, Ellen Dolan and Emmy-nominee Molly Burnett in the multiple-award-winning soap, Empire The Series. He appeared on Celebrity Ghost Stories and is the creator of a new comedy series, This Just In. Stay in touch with him online at www.chrisjhandley.com.


Casey Kilroy
Originally from the “Steel City” of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Casey has had a diverse career, ranging from full body costume work as “Zoe” in ‘Sesame Street Live!’ to performing as a back up singer with symphony orchestras across the US for Broadway star Gary Mauer. The daughter of a pastry chef and a self proclaimed ‘trouble-maker,’ Casey grew up a gymnast and later studied tap dancing and voice, landing her first professional theatre role at the age of 15. A highly sought after and well-known political organizer, she holds degrees in both Political Science and Musical Theatre from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Although she has mostly been in political ‘hibernation’ since college, she has left the performing world on a few occasions to lend a hand to some high-profile campaigns. For the past two years, Casey was around the world with Seabourn Cruise Line as an Assistant Cruise Director and entertainer, performing her one-woman show, “Five Foot Two.” While working for Seabourn she took her show into the recording studio and now has her first CD available. Casey is also no stranger to a life on a riverboat. In 2006, she worked for two years aboard the Columbia Queen, Empress of the North and Queen of the West, and she is so excited to be back ‘home’ here on the American Queen! When she isn’t on the road or on the water, Casey can be found in Pittsburgh working on independent films with her husband Andrew. Follow her travel journeys at www.caseykilroy.com/blog


Michaelyn Oby
Michaelyn Oby is a sultry vocalist with a voice reminiscent of those legends of old. She exemplifies the elegance and eloquence of a golden era, while bridging the neo-soul movement of her fellow contemporizes with a transcending grace rarely found within those artists of today. Michaelyn has been said to embody the emotional captivation of Billie Holiday, the stylistic clarity of Ella Fitzgerald, as well as the popular tinge of Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Music will never be the same when Michaelyn hits center stage. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Michaelyn was born to accomplished musicians, Michael and Joyce Oby. Relocated to Memphis,TN, she began singing at a young age and fast gained the title as "the little girl with the big voice." Now considering herself a "lady," though ever excelling towards new musical horizons, Michaelyn has enjoyed a gratifing professional career to this point. She has graced many stages in Professional Theatre, Historic Beale Street in Memphis Tennessee, National Civic engagement platforms, as well as opened for musical legends such as the late Isaac Hayes. In those rare instances where she is not on stage performing, Michaelyn can be found in her second home, the studio, recording and composing.


Carson Turner
Carson Turner is no stranger to the stage. When he was only 2 weeks old he played baby Jesus in the church Christmas show. Since the very young age of 3 he has been taking dance lessons and quickly found a passion for performing. When he turned 6 years old, his mom took him to see "Annie" and he immediately wanted to be an orphan, when he later realized his "Annie" dreams we're crushed because of his gender he set his sights on bigger and better things. Growing up as a boy in theatre has never been easy, but because of the passion and love for the theatre everyday seems easier than the next. Carson's faith and belief in God have driven him to strive for the utmost potential in all he does. While in college at Union University he took over as the youth minister of a church in downtown Jackson,TN where his passion for the Lord and for young people really grew. From there he went on to perform with The Young Americans out of California in Japan, and Germany. After that he moved back to Memphis and has constantly been on stages professionally in the theatre. He spent a couple of years in Indiana working for Matt Davenport Productions at Holiday World. While at home in Memphis he works within the Shelby County School district as the choreographer for many high schools and has also choreographed for many theatres including the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Memphis. He is the current reigning Mr. Mid-South on a platform to get young people off the streets and back into a positive atmosphere of living. He has been nominated for numerous awards including Best Choreography at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Steve Spracklen
Steve Spracklen grew up in Joplin, Missouri and graduated from Missouri Southern State University. Piano lessons as a youngster led to an interest in the foundations of American popular music, and he focused his musical studies on ragtime and early jazz styles. He has collected a personal library of original sheet music, piano rolls, periodicals and books, cylinder and disc recordings from that musical genre. His research has been used in publications about these musical forms.  He worked as a professional musician on the road for ten years, appearing in nightclubs, resorts, and restaurants across the United States and Canada. Steve performed with jazz and ragtime greats such as Eubie Blake and Turk Murphy. He has also been featured in many music festivals and on stage in solo concerts as well as with a 17-piece ragtime orchestra. Steve has worked in the cruise industry since 1979, starting as a musician in the Paddlewheel Lounge on board the Mississippi Queen, working a stint on the SS Bermuda Star, and then cruise directing on the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen. When the American Queen began her inaugural season in 1995 Steve was selected as cruise director for the first year of her passenger service. He served as senior cruise director with the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, and subsequently worked as cruise director on the Mississippi Queen for the Delaware North Company and on the American Queen for the Majestic America Line. After a few years away from the river Steve is very happy to be back on the American Queen with the American Queen Steamboat Company, and he still enjoys entertaining guests with his music whenever he can.


Bill Wiemuth
Bill grew up in Texas and now resides amongst the beauty of northern Idaho with his wife Laura Sable, a remarkable entertainer who he met aboard the American Queen and who will be featured as a headline entertainer on several cruises this season. After beginning his cruise career with American Hawaii Cruises in 1997, Bill Wiemuth began his steamboating career as Cruise Director aboard the American Queen in 1998. He since has served as a dynamic entertainer, lecturer, writer, producer, and entertainment manager for boats cruising America’s waterways. For Delta Queen Steamboat Company, America West Steamboat Company, and Majestic America Line he has traveled rivers including the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Columbia, Snake, Willamette, and Hudson – in addition to Alaska’s Inside Passage. He also has worked in Alaska for Princess Cruises and has written, produced and performed for Holland America Line.  Bill has written and recorded a “River History Series” collection of 15 CDs which dynamically share the history and stories connected to America’s rivers. As a river authority, he has appeared in many print and broadcast media interviews including CNN’s “Headline News,” ABC’s “Good Morning, America,” the Food Network, and on National Public Radio. He also wrote and co-produced the documentary film “Delta Queen: Turning the Page” which chronicled the career and final steam-powered journey of that historic steamboat. When not aboard the American Queen, Bill and his wife tour and perform across the U.S. and internationally. Stay in touch with Bill at www.tunefultwosome.com and www.riverhistory.com.