Of all the Western journeys, sure an' this is one of the strangest: a bit of a broth of an Irish lad scullin' and singin' down the Mississippi on the first showboat ever. The curtain goes up in Chicago in 1836. Rather than live in the canal workers' camps with his father, fourteen-year-old Colin O'Dae runs away with a company of travelling actors. After considerable hardship, they reach the Illinois River, where Edwin Flower, leader of the company, buys a keelboat and has it fitted out with an auditorium for performances. Colin becomes unofficial captain of the strange vessel and, after a bout with stage fright, a regular member of the cast. They play for one or two nights at each of the little towns along the Illinois and the Mississippi. But the dreamlike quality of the slow trip turns into a nightmare when they all come down with swamp fever. The glamour of an actor's life pales for Colin beside the hardship, and he decides to return home to his father with the money he has earned and buy some land. Beginning and end are poorly motivated -- Colin's running off is largely fortuitous and his return to his unsympathetic father is not convincing -- but, oh, what fine travels the lad has! Edwin Flower and his family are troopers first and last. The show must go on --in a Russian immigrant camp in the wilderness or a fever-racked village along the river. And the performance backstage is as good as the spectacle out front: two men, a woman and two little girls enacting the whole Spanish Conquest. It's grand show and a grand adventure, and girls, especially, will be likin' it.